Is California Considering a Tax on Breathing?

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and satire.

  • Published 20 December 2018
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Claim

Lawmakers in California have proposed a new law called the "Check Your Oxygen Privilege Act."

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Origin

On 17 December 2018, the Babylon Bee website published an article reporting that California lawmakers had proposed a new law called the “Check Your Oxygen Privilege Act,” which would put a tax on breathing:

The California legislature unveiled plans last week for a new tax on the privilege of breathing.

The “Check Your Oxygen Privilege Act” will be voted on later this week. If passed into law, Californians will pay a progressive tax on inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, with wealthier residents paying as much as 40% of their income for every breath they take. The poorest tax bracket may receive a subsidy for their breaths under the new model.

This article was a work of satire, not a genuine news report.

While many readers may have been tipped to the satirical nature of this article by the sheer impracticability of such a law, others may have been prone to believe it because it was posted in the wake of a slightly more plausible, real proposal by California lawmakers: a tax on texts. (The actual proposal was a bit more nuanced than that.) If California could tax text messages, many social media users wondered, why couldn’t they tax the air we breathe?

Ridiculous or plausible, the supposed proposal was purely the product of the Babylon Bee, a satirical site with a long history of publishing online ruses. A disclaimer on the site notes that “The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire.”