If you had given me the text of “In Germany, Sex Workers Feed a Meter” and told me to guess the source, I would have said “The Onion.” If you’re not familiar with The Onion, it bills itself as “America’s Finest News Source.” In fact, it is America’s finest news satire, with articles written as if they were news. Pieces from The Onion sometimes fool people, who think they are genuine.
“In Germany, Sex Workers Feed a Meter” is that kind of article. It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true. I didn’t read it in The Onion, but in the New York Times. Here’s how the article begins:
The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few if any bounds.
Bonn is not the only city in Germany to charge such a tax, but it is the first to hit upon the idea of a ticket machine that prints out receipts for the nightly flat fee of 6 euros (currently about $8.65) for the privilege of streetwalking. The meter went into service over the weekend, and by Monday morning had collected $382 for the city’s coffers.
As you might have guessed, prostitution is legal in Germany:
Street prostitution as practiced in Bonn, once the capital of West Germany and a town better known for sleepiness than sexiness, would be unfamiliar to many people outside Germany for its unusual degree of organization and institutionalization.
The women wait for customers on a stretch of the Immenburgstrasse in a largely industrial part of the city. In addition to the Siemens-built meter machine, which cost $11,575 including installation, the city has built special wooden garages nearby where customers can park their cars and have sex.
“They are called, in fairest and finest administrative High German, ‘performance areas,’ but I believe the Italian prime minister would say ‘bunga bunga,’ ” said Monika Frömbgen, a spokeswoman for the city. Still, she said, the serious issue that the meter was intended to address boils down to tax fairness.
So, for all of those who think the United States ought to be more like Europe, here’s a new reason. Taxing prostitution might help us pay off our national debt. Of course for those of us who live in the past when it comes to ethics, we bemoan a system that further institutionalizes the degradation of women and the cheapening of sex.