Art by Autumn Hardwick
March 1 marked the beginning of Women’s History Month. During Women’s History Month, many social activists will speak on social problems, such as gender inequality in employment, domestic violence, sexual harassment and education for women. In recent years, abolishing the tax on menstrual products has also been a trending topic.
“The tampon tax” refers to the sales tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products. Many people regard the tampon tax as unfair because the government gives tax cuts on some nonessential items such as food coloring, golf club memberships and donuts; but tampons, which are very essential, do not have tax cuts in some states.
Further, 25 million women live in poverty in the United States, but food stamps do not cover period products. “Period poverty” — being unable to afford feminine hygiene products — already is a prevailing problem.
Presently, 33 states impose taxes on feminine hygiene products and many social activists claim the tampon tax not only creates a financial burden on the people who need tampons but is also sexist, discriminatory and unconstitutional. Therefore, the government should abolish the “tampon tax.”
The movement to abolish the “tampon tax” seems to be an essential step toward equality because it aims to relieve people’s financial burdens. In reality, this might not be the best solution because abolishing the “tampon tax” might not benefit the people who need tampons the most.
Cutting the tax does not guarantee a lower price because, in countries with a free-market economy, like United States, the producers hold the ultimate pricing power. Even if the government abolishes the “tampon tax,” the manufacturers of tampons could raise their price to hold the overall price constant despite the decrease in taxation.
Hypothetically, the price of a pack of tampons is $10 — $4 for cost price, $4 for profit and $2 for tax. When the government abolishes the “tampon tax,” the manufacturers could still keep the price at $10, $4 for cost and now $6 for profit. Therefore, abolishing the “tampon tax” could possibly increase the revenue of the tampon manufacturers and the people who need tampons might not receive many benefits from it.
The money from tampon sales would be better spent with the government’s involvement. Theoretically, if the government doesn’t spend this money on the people in need, then it is negligent. Nonetheless, when a private company doesn’t spend this money on the people in need, there is no way to hold this private company accountable.
Abolishing the “tampon tax” might not be the best idea, but this does not mean the government should be silent on this issue.
A possible solution is the government should keep collecting the “tampon tax” but only from the people who can afford it. The government should offer free feminine hygiene products for school-age adolescents, tax-free feminine hygiene products for people with low income and regular price for those with high income. The government can check people’s eligibility and then issue them a card for buying tampons.
With the funds from the “tampon tax,” the government should create social programs that can benefit low-income people and utilize this money to promote reproductive health by providing free routine gynecological examinations and free or low-cost insurance to support gynecological health.
Keeping the “tampon tax” could help the government to avoid having the one-size-fits-all type of policy on the people in need and also provide more social equity for the people who need more support.
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