National Hot Dog Day

Published: July 24, 2015

National Hot Dog Day, Mustard or ketchup? These are the kinds of pressing questions the nation faces today because it’s National Hot Dog Day.

I know what you’re thinking: who knew hot dogs had their own day? They do. They have their own month, too: National Hot Dog Day is part of National Hot Dog Month (I kid you not) as designated by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

Americans love hot dogs. Love them. Last year, Americans spent more than $2.5 billion on hot dogs just in supermarkets. That’s about 10% of the entire gross domestic product of El Salvador. On hot dogs.

That doesn’t count all of the dollars spent in restaurants and at sporting events. At baseball stadiums, hot dogs are practically required eating: fans consumed more than 21.4 million hot dogs last season with Los Angeles putting away the most (a remarkable 3 million). It’s no coincidence that baseball, a summer sport, and hot dogs, go hand and hand: during the summer stretch, Americans will eat 7 billion hot dogs, or about 818 hot dogs every second.

Straight from the Navy Pier! Image courtesy of Kelly Phillips Erb

While Americans may love their hot dogs, we don’t love taxes. And we don’t love taxes on hot dogs. Believe it or not, the two became intertwined in the 1970s when the so-called “hot dog tax” reared its ugly head.

In 1971, New York managed to push through a law which imposed a state and city sales tax to restaurant bills that totaled more than a dime and less than a dollar. The price range earned the tax the moniker “hot dog tax” because it boosted the tax on lunches like hot dogs – while exempting breakfasts (at the time, cheaper than a dollar) and pricier meals. In other words, your caviar-laden baguette could have escaped taxation but not the lowly hot dog.

Ironically, while the “hot dog tax” was characterized as a tax that hurt the poor, then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R) used the extension of the sales tax – introduced just a few years before – to promote large welfare programs and public works projects. The New York Governor was considered far too spend-y and tax happy to be a Republican at the time and caught a break when President Nixon (R) was forced to resign: President Gerald Ford (R) chose Rockefeller to serve as his Vice President (despite Rockefeller’s clear lack of popularity, losing the primary three times in his bid to become President).

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