By on June 25, 2011

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson set off something of a firestorm a few weeks ago, when he said, in response to a question about forthcoming CAFE increases:

You know what I’d rather have them do — this will make my Republican friends puke — as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas.

Predictably, populists and economic alarmists of all stripes took great umbrage at Akerson’s candor, questioning his leadership of GM as well as his perspective on the shaky US economy. But Akerson is not alone in his support of some form of gas-tax increase. Bob Lutz and  Tom Friedman (an odd couple right there, if ever there was one) agree with him. Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl defended Akerson and even suggested a $2/gallon tax earlier this year. Bill Ford and  AutoNation’s Mike Jackson are of the same mind as now-retired Republican Senator George Voinovich on the issue. And yet, inside the Beltway, the subject tends to draw a chuckle and a roll of the eyes. Everyone wants it, but nobody wants it.

Since the term “oil addiction” has been used to death, let’s look to an (arguably) less demeaning metaphor: vegetables. Your mother probably didn’t force you to take an honest personal inventory when she made you eat some dreaded brussel sprout or another (which is why the addiction metaphor seems better), but she would have had you not been slave to infantile instinct. So now, with our fully developed faculties, let’s consider what happens if you don’t eat your vegetables.

In the most basic sense, not increasing the gas tax is bad for America’s physical body. Our roads, which circulate the lifeblood of commerce (OK, enough with the metaphor), are literally crumbling. Again, a phrase we may have become desensitized to, but literally true. Car and Driver has a good look at the problem of America’s infrastructure woes and their link to the gas tax, the Highway Trust Fund.

The HTF is a rare beast in the political world. Usually, federal tax money goes into the general fund, where legislators first pass an authorization bill, giving guidelines about how the money can be spent, then a separate appropriations bill actually putting the money into things like buying fighter jets or paying the National Institutes of Health’s electric bill. The HTF’s authorization guarantees that all federal gas-tax revenue will only be put there. Whenever a new transportation spending bill is passed, called a reauthorization, there are slight tweaks to the HTF and how it is spent, but in general it is considered sacrosanct.

Once in the HTF, interstate money is divided according to complex formulas that take into account things such as lane-miles of road, the number of  licensed drivers, ­priority programs for things like bridge replacements, and equity provisions to ensure that every state gets a minimum (currently guaranteed at 92 percent) of their contribution back. State transportation departments, which plan, build, and maintain the interstates, decide what they want to do and then pay for it; the federal share for interstate projects is 90 percent, 80 percent if no high-occupancy lanes are built.

Now, the HTF is running out of money….To match the rate of inflation and have the same value that the 18.4-cent tax did in 1993, the gas tax  would have to be increased to 28 cents per gallon.

Safe public roads are a government outlay that all but the most extreme “Atlas Shrugged”-thumpers can get behind, especially in the wake of a rush-hour bridge collapse like the 2007 Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse. And yet the tax that pays for our interstates hasn’t even kept up with inflation. Increasing the price of gas may hurt Americans’ mobility in the short term, but not having an interstate system is the more dire long-term alternative.

Another downside to undertaxed gasoline, which explains the broad industry support for a gas tax hike, is that America’s cheap gas makes life hell for automotive product planners. Though this might actually be good for TTAC, as it would keep us well-stocked with stories of inventory issues and mis-timed products, we’re not that selfish. Recent history teaches us that the rate of increase or decrease in the price of gas, rather than the price itself, drives the market to the extremes of high and low fuel efficiency (as evidenced by he fact that last month’s hybrid sales fell despite gas prices hitting their 2008 price levels). Industry planners would rather see the price of gasoline taxed to a state to create sustainably steady price increases, eliminating some of the speculative swings in pricing, than to plan for lower efficiency and higher profits only to be caught flat-footed by a price shock. Also, bringing US gas prices into line with the rest of the world will help US market-dependent manufacturers develop truly global products. Finally, a gas tax increase would eliminate the need for the complex, loophole-ridden CAFE regime, which industry lobbyists say “only about six people in the US actually understand.” Lutz explains:

You either continue with inexpensive motor fuels and have to find other ways to incentivize the customer to buy hybrids and electric vehicles, such as the government credits. Or the other alternative is a gradual increase in the federal fuel tax of 25 cents a year, which in my estimation would have the benefit of giving automobile companies a planning base, and giving families that own vehicles a planning base. Every time gas prices go back down, everybody starts buying big stuff again. Gas prices go up a buck, the big stuff is unsellable and everyone wants small cars. Go figure. It’s like the collective memory is about three weeks long. We can’t run a business that way.

And then there’s the issue of “externalities,” or the unborn costs of cheap gasoline. One commonly-cited “hidden cost” of cheap gasoline is the US’s huge overseas military presence. Though the link between America’s military adventures and our low price of gas isn’t always obvious, our intervention in Libya shows how expensive interventions are often undertaken out of fear of a gas price shock. Since the cost of military action isn’t built into the price of gas, this amounts to a hidden cost. Furthermore, the military’s intensive use of gasoline has a multiplying effect on those costs, forcing Pentagon planners to seek ever-greater efficiency simply to maintain existing overseas deployments.

Another there are plenty of other externalities to cheap gasoline. As Akerson points out, CAFE puts the burden of efficiency on auto manufacturers, potentially costing manufacturing jobs, at a time when the oil industry has been immensely profitable. Furthermore, as the video above shows, pollution is another hidden cost of cheap gas. Like military interventions, the cost of health problems caused by pollution is largely born by taxpayers… another “hidden cost” that some estimates place at over a trillion dollars per year.

But the final externality is one that should stop the populist resistance to a gas tax in its tracks: if we don’t pay for our gas with more money, we will do so with our privacy. Going back to  the Highway Trust Fund, we find that the only alternative to an increase in the tax itself is the “Vehicle Miles Traveled” tax, a scheme that would require the government to track every single vehicle in the United States and tax it based on the miles traveled. Though in many ways a more fair system than a gas tax alone (as it apportions costs based on use of the infrastructure, without filtering it through the efficiency level of each individual car, the VMT tax scheme is an Orwellian nightmare waiting to happen. Though privacy is not at the height of its popularity at the moment, those who oppose any increase in the gas tax would do well to consider the implications of this alternative (Who does the data belong to? Will law enforcement get access? Will others be able to track you by piggy-backing onto the system?). Especially since no other alternative is even being seriously considered.

Ultimately, the tragic truth is that there may be no way to prevent this final “alternative” to the gas tax for the simple reason that, as efficiency improves towards zero gasoline use vehicles, gas tax revenue will eventually fall away to nothing. But that horizon could be pushed out twenty years if we recognize that not even indexing the gas tax to inflation is unsustainable and if we create a long term “glidepath” of predictably-increasing gas taxes. In this scenario, our highways could be maintained, some of the externalities of gasoline use could be mitigated, and the auto industry would have the predictability to plan products that use the remaining gasoline as efficiently as possible. Moreover, the US would not be taking on any special burden in the global picture, but would simply be joining the rest of the world in paying a more realistic price for our gasoline.

Any one of these arguments could be quibbled with, but at the end of the day, opposition to any increase in the gas tax can only be justified on the fear of short-term consequences that pale in comparison to the longer-term alternatives. Like the auto bailout, sacrificing long-term principles based on short-term fears betrays a lack of faith in America’s ability to innovate its way out of challenges. What’s the principle at stake here? Market function, for one thing, which is fundamentally perverted by willfully hidden externalities. How about the historically unprecedented mobility offered by our interstate system, not to mention the ability to enjoy that mobility without government surveillance? Global equity in an increasingly multipolar world, and environmental justice are other fine principles, if you’re into that kind of thing. Oh, and did we mention America’s swamped fiscal situation that is the backdrop to all of this?

Sadly, the reason a gas tax increase hasn’t happened isn’t because people don’t understand these issues. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by op-eds like this one. Taking on this issue will require a fundamental shift in how the gas tax and gas prices more generally are seen inside the beltway, and based on President Obama’s recent decision to release strategic oil reserves, that leadership is as AWOL as ever. And with an election looming, we’re more likely to see a gas tax holiday (as we did during the last presidential election) than any proposal for an increase in gas taxes. So, what’s the solution? Instead of just verbally supporting a gas tax increase, corporate leaders like Akerson who claim the policy is in their best interests need to stop throwing up their hands at the political challenge and start putting their money where their mouth is. The ideas behind a gas tax increase are so strong, even a moderately well-funded political action committee would at least be able to embarrass a few of the craven politicians who oppose this common-sense policy. You have to start somewhere…

 

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239 Comments on “The Tragedy Of The Gas Tax...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Good article. Courageous article on a car website. I happily pay more gas tax (and get rid of tolls!). with higher gas price due tot ax, there is less fluctuation due to oil-prices. I also can reliably buy a (more expensive) fuel saving car and the manufacturer can reliably develop one.

    low gas tax is like not exposing your children to other children to protect them from diseases. They don’t build up an immune system. the US car driver is completely vulnerable to increasing oil prices because he never got used to high gasoline prices.

    I know, there is the issue that government will waste some of the tax and use it for other purposes. But if they use it for schools, that is fine with me too. If our national oil consumption would be lower, we could save much money on military. All overseas military should be paid by the gas tax, since that is the main purpose of our recent military adventures (paid for by borrowed money, so government at some time will need to tax us to pay the money back)

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I agree. Good article. Increased cost of living including higher taxes on everything is a given. But let’s not rush it. It will come when it will come. We’re not there yet.

      Keep in mind that more than 50% of Americans do not pay any kind of income tax at all because their income is below what is considered an acceptable standard of living level. Piling on taxes on fuel, etc, only pushes these people down even further on the living standard scale and depresses their quality of life even more.

      More to the point would be taxes on the sales of vehicles by price, class and weight. For instance, levy a sales tax of 10% on the Aveo-class vehicles, 15% tax on the Cruze-class vehicles, 20% on the Malibu-class vehicles, 25% on the Impala and Taurus-class vehicles and 30% on the Silverado-class vehicles. A similar tax could be applied to the SUV and CUV classes. Luxury-class vehicles could be taxed anywhere from 35% to 50% depending on price. They did that at one time. It was called a luxury tax. Brought in a ton of money because those who could afford to buy luxury were not deterred by the high taxes. It wasn’t fair but it worked.

      The use of fuel is critical to America’s economy and productivity. Burdening the poor disproportionately with higher fuel taxes just means that more of them will end up on the public dole.

      People will buy gas no matter what it costs. That’s already proven. Altering what people choose to drive will save much more in fuel usage. Like behavior modification. And we can do that by appropriately taxing those vehicles that people choose to buy.

      • 0 avatar
        vww12

        This was such a bad article, containing such a basic falsehood.

        There is plenty of money from the federal gasoline tax. It’s just that

        16% is lopped off at the top and given away to mass transit
        25% of the reminder is also diverted to mass transit, walkpaths thru forests, and other nonsense

        Net net, 37% of the current tax is misused. No wonder roads “are crumbling”.

        Here are the slides from the Federal Transit Administration revealing this unconscionable heist:

        http://i329.photobucket.com/albums/l380/vww12/a-fifth-of-gasoline-taxes-subsidy-t.jpg

        http://i329.photobucket.com/albums/l380/vww12/funds-diverted-from-roads-highways.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      Why would you rather have higher gas taxes than tolls? Tolls pay for the roads you’re using (and more efficiently, too, with private toll companies), whereas with taxes, you get all the ‘efficiencies’ of government contracting, and, even worse, a significant portion of higher gas taxes would be surely siphoned off to pay for ruinously expensive white-elephant rail projects. For a alternative, toll-oriented approach, this is worth a watch:

      http://reason.tv/video/show/6.html

      Gas tax money for schools?!? Hell no. We already spend far more than we used to (in inflation adjusted dollars) and far more than most other industrialized nations with mediocre-at-best results. There’s no way I’m going to sign on to throwing more money at K-12 education via increased gas taxes (or any other taxes).

      http://reason.org/blog/show/the-condition-of-education-2011-we

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      False choice. States are free to increase their part of the excise tax on gasoline independent of the federal government.

      I would prefer the federal government just got out of the business of collecting taxes on gasoline and passing out pork to the states. Make the states responsible for figuring out how to fund highways. Pass a state level constitutional amendment earmarking gasoline taxes for highways and I’d even consider higher gas tax rates if that is what is required.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Governments are inefficient. Every dollar you give them results in more fiscal inefficiencies. Ironic when we are discussing how important it is to be efficient would be to promote the most inefficient way of accomplishing it, right?

      People spend their money better and more efficiently than governments do. Taxes are a fiscal punishment. Yes, we have seen some accomplishments due to taxes, but at every turn, there was a better more efficient way to reach those accomplishments than via governments.

      If your pro-tax increase argument is taken to it’s logical conclusion, then a 100% tax would be best of all, right?

      Well, take a look at our current Federal Budget. It spends $4 billion every single day, holidays included. We can tax at 100% right now – but not pay for the amount spent every single year. You can tax at 100% every Fortune 500 profit and every single paycheck and you will not be able to pay for ONE SINGLE YEAR of President Obama’s 2012 budget.

      So even if we do tax at 100% – what you see right now, is what you will get. A huge catastrophic failure and bankrupsy.

      We are $14 Trillion in debt. We don’t have $14 Trillion. Thanks to the ability to print money, play debt games, we are still getting mail and still functioning. It is all an illusion.

      When you raise the gas tax, it will only free up that equal amount already spent and bartered with. That means that no only would the gas tax increase not go to improved infastructure, it would not help in the long run either.

      In the meantime, the higher gas tax would continue to cripple drivers. Folks that really need help, really need jobs, really need to earn a living. You raise the gas tax and the folks who will suffer will be your neighbors. They pay for gas NOW – and need to get to work NOW – and you will be knee-capping them for a faith in governments that has proven to be completely bogus.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    As you can see way more than 50% of the price is tax here in Europe. I’m paying over 8USD/gallon now! The good thing is that people that don’t need to haul a lot of material are not driving around in trucks. It has also forced the producer of cars here to make much better, efficient cars. Diesel is also over 8 USD/gallon but the modern cars with diesels are very efficient and has a torque as an old school American V8.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    The failure to increase the gas tax isn’t because “people don’t understand” the issue. Complex legislation gets passed all the time despite widespread public ignorance. The key roadblock is the anti-tax fundamentalism that has hijacked the Republican party. You pretty much can’t support any tax increase these days in order to avoid the wrath of Grover Norquist and his allies. The last vestiges of moderate Republicans continue to face heated primary challenges from the Tea Party. Meanwhile, most Democrats are deathly afraid of being savagely attacked during a general election for voting to raise such a high-visibility tax as one on gas.

    This basic dynamic won’t change until something blows up. For example, if the debt limit isn’t increased and the US goes into default, I suppose it is possible that the Tea Party could be blamed for the ensuing calamity. That might give moderates of both parties more cover to talk about a gas tax increase. However, absent a game-changing event, common sense has pretty much zero hope of prevailing in Washington, D.C. Look to the states for leadership here.

    • 0 avatar

      Just what right do you and your fellow lefties have to my money?

      What is your moral and legal justification for putting your hand in my pocket?

      What right do you have to take out loans that my grandchildren will have to pay off?

      You want others to pay for the things you want. Now how adult is that? And what is the price of dependency? You want everyone dependent on the government. Dependency is a terrible thing.

      I think the founding fathers had a pretty good idea on the limits of government and taxation. Taxes and other government revenues (like the tariffs and fees that paid for the US government for the 130 or so years before there was an income tax) should pay for the common defense, things like post offices and roads, you know, the stuff that’s actually in the US Constitution.

      LBJ and Nixon drastically increased the scope and size of the executive branch, adding department after department and agency after agency (Education, Energy, EPA etc.), and that trend has continued. Are those agencies and departments really necessary? Right now, with the ideology of the current administration, not only are all those departments and agencies an anchor on the economy because of their cost just to operate, they are also currently using every possible regulation they can use to stymy business (except for their favored friends in the green sector and crony capitalists like GE). The people in power in Washington right now, and many federal employees who staff executive branch regulatory agencies, are ideologically predisposed against free markets and determined to use whatever powers they have to regulate markets and behaviors.

      It’s about control. They want to control our lives. You want to control my money.

      I don’t mind paying more gasoline taxes so that highways are properly funded. I do mind guys like you thinking that “taxing the rich” will save the world because we need another 1,000 people working at the Department of Education.

      It’s not your money. You have no moral claim on other people’s money.

      It’s not your money.

      From now on, whenever someone decides to substitute “Tea Party blah blah blah Evil Republicans blah blah blah Fundamentalists blah blah blah” for actual debate, my answer is going to be:

      It’s Not Your Money

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        Sorry, Ron, all I got from this post is “I’m opposed to any idea that would improve things for everyone including myself because MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Ned, do you have a job and pay taxes? If you do, do you take advantage of every deduction you are legally entitled to take? Do you spend money on things that are not necessities? If you answer yes, then great, we have something in common.

        But if you feel like your taxes are too low you do know that you are welcome to donate to the Treasury any amount that you wish. So next time you ridicule someone for complaing that taxes are too high, stop and think for a second. Ask yourself, did I do my part and donate to the Feds? If your answer is no, then go no further. You have no standing to criticize someone for thinking taxes are too high.

        You people want others to pay more taxes it seems like. But you don’t really want to pay more enough to donate.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        I want me, you, and everybody else to pay for good roads. Some of your/my money was earned because of those roads. The Feds sure do waste lots of our money, but they do a pretty good job of spending HTF $$ on roads.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        It’s not your money, either. Notice whose names and faces are printed on it?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Psar, if it’s not mine, then the money in your pockets and your accounts isn’t yours. How about sending it to me to hold for you until the government wants it? I’d kind of like loonies now what with the exchange rate and all.

      • 0 avatar
        Abdul_Alhazred

        “Just what right do you and your fellow lefties have to my money?”

        -Do you use the roads in the US?

        “What is your moral and legal justification for putting your hand in my pocket?

        What right do you have to take out loans that my grandchildren will have to pay off?”

        -Again, do you use US roads? Taxes aren’t a loan, they’re payment for goods/services rendered.

        “You want others to pay for the things you want. Now how adult is that? And what is the price of dependency? You want everyone dependent on the government. Dependency is a terrible thing.”

        -I think you’re absolutely right. Dependency is a terrible, terrible thing – but I think I know a way out. Build and maintain your owns roads. You do that, and I bet the DOT will pay /you/!

        “I think the founding fathers had a pretty good idea on the limits of government and taxation. Taxes and other government revenues (like the tariffs and fees that paid for the US government for the 130 or so years before there was an income tax) should pay for the common defense, things like post offices and roads, you know, the stuff that’s actually in the US Constitution.”

        -..Uh. Wouldn’t the additional revenues garnered from a gas tax rate hike…just…go to paying for roads? Just like it says in the Constitution? Hmm.

        “LBJ and Nixon drastically increased the scope and size of the executive branch, adding department after department and agency after agency (Education, Energy, EPA etc.), and that trend has continued. Are those agencies and departments really necessary?”

        -Yes.

        “Right now, with the ideology of the current administration, not only are all those departments and agencies an anchor on the economy because of their cost just to operate,”

        -So Obama’s going to drag this country down by applying his ‘ideology’, none of which has anything to do with him. He didn’t create the DHS, the EPA, the DOT, DOE or any other acronym you can throw at me. Take a breath; there are more libertarian blogs on the internet than there are stars in the sky, why do you need to bash the president on a auto blog?

        “…they are also currently using every possible regulation they can use to stymy business (except for their favored friends in the green sector and crony capitalists like GE). The people in power in Washington right now, and many federal employees who staff executive branch regulatory agencies, are ideologically predisposed against free markets and determined to use whatever powers they have to regulate markets and behaviors.

        It’s about control. They want to control our lives.”

        -Be afraid! the government wants to guarantee you clean drinking water, stable infrastructure, police and a good education! The horror! The Horror!

        Have you considered a career in writing tragedies, or political thrillers? You’ve got a good sense for hyperbole.

        “You want to control my money.

        I don’t mind paying more gasoline taxes so that highways are properly funded.”

        -Then why are you complaining about someone suggesting that we should properly fund the things that all Americans rely on equally?

        “I do mind guys like you thinking that “taxing the rich” will save the world because we need another 1,000 people working at the Department of Education.”

        -I don’t know where you’re coming from with ‘taxing the rich’; it’s pretty obvious that a gas tax hike would affect the poor more than the rich. And normally I’d ignore the Dept. Ed. outlier there, but I see it so much it’s oppressive, so I have to ask. Why do ‘Tea Partiers’ seem to have such a raging hate-on for de-funding the Department of Education?

        “It’s not your money. You have no moral claim on other people’s money.

        It’s not your money.

        From now on, whenever someone decides to substitute “Tea Party blah blah blah Evil Republicans blah blah blah Fundamentalists blah blah blah” for actual debate, my answer is going to be:

        It’s Not Your Money”

        -Let’s pretend that I’m the Government, here. You can be you, I guess.

        Do you use the services I provide, ply the roads I built, draw water from the pipes I laid (lol), buy goods that landed in the ports I built? Then guess what! You, just like everyone equally, must fund them.”

        Simple, right? Think of taxes like a bill that you have to pay, like your car payment. You bought that car, right? You’re using it? Then you have to pay for it. So again, we return to my original question.

        Do you use the roads in the US? I’m assuming yes. Then you, through taxes, help on upkeep and new construction. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that nothing’s free. I mean, hell, all you’re doing is shunting a small bit of change into an account that pays for /other/ people to do the work! You’re not even the one maintaining the roads! I think it’s the least you can do.

        So I guess all I can really say is, that the next time a ‘Tea Partier’ shrieks like a girl at the very idea of paying for the crap they use, bla bla bla, I already know what my retort is going to be:

        “If you don’t want to pay for it, get out.” I’m sure the nominal tax rate in Somalia is lower than the States, and I bet immigration costs are pretty low to boot. What are you waiting for?

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Well, whose money is it that pays subsidies to energy companies? Whose is it that funds CENTCOM and freedom of the seas for oil tankers and oil region security/wars?

        Howsabout those that use a thing _pay for that thing_, in full? CENTCOM and the oil wars (be real, WTF would the USA have anything to do with those backwater shitheel arab fuckers if not for the devils shit under their sand?) cost how many hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and how does that amortize out per gallon of gas sold?

        Me, I’d like to see a CENTCOM/war/subsidy tax explicitly added to gas, with large signage at pumps.

        Don’t tax diesel though, as diesel feeds directly into costs of living (trucking, construction, etc) while gasoline taxes are less inflationary for those who don’t need to drive everywhere. And vanity work trucks with gas motors? Meh. Real working vehicles use diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, Ron, all I got from this post is “I’m opposed to any idea that would improve things for everyone including myself because MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

        Neb, you must not have very good reading comprehension:

        I don’t mind paying more gasoline taxes so that highways are properly funded.

        So much for your straw man. So tell me Neb, what right do you have to my money?

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The only things you truly own in any society are those things that you can defend against those who would like to take them away. Yes, you can own property, but good luck keeping it if the government exercises eminent domain. Yes, you can build up a certain amount of wealth, but if the majority vote to raise taxes, under the laws of our society, you are required to surrender whatever amount those taxes require.

        Besides the government interests, what happens when those who are left cold and hungry due to reductions in state aid for the poor and continued corporate outsourcing/downsizing decide that their immediate needs for shelter, food, money, etc, trump your need for your own personal possessions? Yes, our society gives everyone the right to succeed or fail on their own merits, but it’s shortsighted to think ‘mine! mine! mine!’ when an increasingly large portion of the country is left without the basics needed to survive.

        A larger government does not mean reduced freedom. Basic needs should not be left in the hands of the profit driven private sector. Healthcare, infrastructure, and basic utilities like power and water should not be run for profit, but rather by the government at the lowest overhead possible with the savings passed on the the average citizen. Two thousand dollars for a hospital visit might not faze someone who makes $100,000 per year, but even a two hundred dollars for a visit could lead to the guy making $20,000 per year to not be able to pay his rent that month. Medicare for all supported by tax increases across the board, but the majority being levied on the extremely wealthy (say, incomes over $500,000 per year) would be far more equitable than our current setup. Even better, with the government becoming the primary health provider costs could be controlled, so a hospital could be told they can’t charge $2,500 for a MRI, or $20 or a Tylenol pill.

        This does work itself around to the gas tax issue. Increasing the gas tax is as poor a solution as a flat tax is for all income. It would disproportionately effect the poor. The HTF can be done away with and the funds needed for road maintenance can be pulled from general income taxes, which can be raised if need be. At the same time price controls need to be set for the oil companies so that they don’t just raise their prices and profits to make up for the lack of gas tax. It wouldn’t hurt to get the individual states, counties, and cities to pony up more for highway maintenance that goes through their areas either. I know my city has recently repaved several roads that were just fine, that’s money that could have easily gone towards more urgent interstate infrastructure needs.

        Also, why not take advantage of the large number of unemployed construction workers? Offer to continue benefits plus a small additional wage to those unable to find other work if they will help rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, etc. This will get the work done for a lot less than hiring private companies, actually get something back for money spent on unemployment and welfare, and encourage the private sector to become more competitive in their bids and pricing to compete with the government.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        What Ronnie said…. +1.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        Ron +1

        What we have here is yet another case of Lefties believing that they know best, and that they are therefore entitled to seizing other people’s money.

        Like or not, the free market DOES make the right decision eventually if you just leave it alone and respect people’s individual rights. Maybe things don’t happen as quickly as you would like, or as quickly as your bribed scientists say they need to happen, but that’s just too bad. You are not the boss of me.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        if it’s not mine, then the money in your pockets and your accounts isn’t yours.

        In the purest sense of the word, it’s mine, but it’s value and security is backstopped by society and the government.

        That was my point. Well, part of the my point. The rest of it is that it’s pretty rich to say that the government has no moral right to “my money” when it’s the very existence of government that a) gives it any value, and b) keeps it from being stolen wholesale.

        Paul Krugman had an interesting point today: that extremists can’t really understand how an opinion that isn’t their isn’t extreme, nor automatically inclusive of other opinions.

        As such, that I think that the government does have a right to my money since I benefit from a the social contract does not mean that support the full flower of Marxism and the abolition of private property.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      Ronnie, you need to learn how to fight fair. It is not accurate to call me a “lefty” just because I happen to support a gas tax increase. I also didn’t say a word about taxing the rich and expanding the Dept. of Education. How about addressing the substance of my remarks rather than creating straw men arguments?

      One of the interesting aspects of the gas tax is that it has an unusually broad range of support. In the state where I live the business community has aggressively supported recent increases because their profitability depends upon improvements to key highways. These folks are anything but lefties.

      These businesses tend to be major supporters of Republican elected officials, so they in turn have supported tax increases. Bipartisan problem solving has prevailed over partisan gridlock.

      Bipartisanship on the national gas tax has not existed for quite some time. And the key reason why is the growing power of anti-tax activists who promise to defeat any Republican who opposes ANY tax increase, no matter how sensible.

      BTW, you aren’t really arguing that there is no legal justification for a gas tax in the US?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        But you are a lefty, every position you take follows the progressive script. If you don’t like being called a lefty then show some variety of thought. Your bipartisanship consists solely of Republicans doing exactly what Democrats want them to do. Why bother having two parties if they have no differences. Do sommething about the size and power of the government and then we can talk about tax increases. One need to happen before the other should even be on the table.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        @MikeAR:
        “then show some variety of thought
        Conming from you, that’s pretty rich. Have you ever once indicated that you believe in anything that isn’t pure Randian dogma? You pretty much dodged Dr. Lemming on all of his serious contentions, too. But I’m sure you’ll just call me a Marxist and then go confidently on your way.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        But you’re wrong. I have gotten some rather suprised agreement from some of the more thinking lefties here. I have consistently spoken out against crony capitalists and the bank bailouts, often with more radical solutions than any progressive here. And using Randian as a dirty word doesn’t work. I’ve read Rand, I don’t particularly agree with her because she ignores the moral basis of capitalism.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Your proposal to raise taxes on fuel across the board would disproportionately affect the poorest among us, many who need that fuel to get to their McJobs. I have to agree that the socialist left liberals often make these suggestions without knowing their ass from a hole in the ground.

        Just because most of us can afford to pay higher costs for everything doesn’t mean that the remaining others could withstand the negative affect higher taxes will have on them. They’d be on Food stamps and other handouts just to get by if taxes are raised further. And many people in America just get by from payday to payday.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Lemming, actually your example of so-called Republican businesses supporting tax increases is a perfect example of rent-seeking. Those businesses support raising taxes on everyone so they will benefit, no matter the cost to the taxpaying public. They may be nominally Republican but they are surely not conservative. In reality, those businesses are practicing crony capitalism or at least paying protection to the politicians so their own taxes aren’t raised.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough taxes for critical government work such as maintaining roads. The problem is that the government doesn’t spend the money it already collects wisely enough. When taxpayer money stops going down rat holes like cowboy poetry festivals and windmill farms, if we still don’t have enough money to fix the roads, I’ll be willing to consider a tax increase – but I am not holding my breath. But even then, I would be concerned that any tax increase would hurt the struggling economy, make the U.S. less competitive, and may cause overall tax revenues to drop. The current recession was triggered or made much worse in part by a significant increase in gasoline prices. Even if a case could be made for higher gas taxes, the middle of a recession is the worst possible time to do it.

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        So tell me Neb, what right do you have to my money?

        There’s a reason why Edward said everyone can get aboard with this *except* Randroids; he wanted to restrict the debate to people who don’t shreak in fear the instant the concept of “shared interests” is invoked. Because instead of discussing, y’know, what Mr. Niedermeyer wrote, it turns into the ol’ boring bull***t: “moral” rights, tax is RACISM, MY *TAX* MONEY, etc, etc. You just can’t discuss public policy when everything short of “A Modest Proposal” is a left wing OBAMAUNIST NAZI PLOT

        I mean, hell, look at the question you just asked me. You’re turning a discussion about us, literally everyone in the country, into just a discussion about you. I stand by my first comment. You should stay out of conversations concerning ‘everyone’ when the only pertinent subject to you is ‘yourself.’

      • 0 avatar
        newcarscostalot

        Neb and Abdul, I don’t think you will get a coherent response to your questions. I have had discussions with those on the right on many issues, and they don’t seem to present an alternative. For example, I have heard folks on the right state that they want limited government (minimal or no regulations) in regards to business so jobs will be created. They don’t state how this will create jobs, or who will regulate business as they wont regulate themselves. In this instance, they don’t state an alternative as to who and how roads would be maintained with no tax, less tax or no new tax. They simply say that government does not use taxes wisely, and therefore should not be allowed to add or raise another tax. Again, if this is how you feel, what is your solution? I don’t feel that I, or you, will get a direct answer or even any alternative ideas, much less solutions.

  • avatar

    Now, the HTF is running out of money….To match the rate of inflation and have the same value that the 18.4-cent tax did in 1993, the gas tax  would have to be increased to 28 cents per gallon.

    I don’t think anyone who drives on today’s poor roads would complain too loudly about a 10 cent per gallon increase in federal gasoline and diesel (and ethanaol too, I suppose) taxes, if that money is earmarked for improving infrastructure.

    As car enthusiasts who came of age after the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system was already well developed, it’s hard for us to imagine just how much the cars we enjoy so much are dependent on the roads we drive in. Early automotive executives like Henry Leland were strong advocates of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road, because they knew that their business depended on good roads.

    I used to do a couple of headline aggregator sites, Auto Report India and Auto Report China. Road building is something that comes up in both countries. China right now is building more new highway than any other country. In India, the lack of good roads and highways hinders the country’s economic development and obviously is not great for the car biz there.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The “no more taxes” pledge so many knee jerk politicians sign up for has brought us to this impasse. Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan would all be “socialists” in the modern Republican party.

    So, until our voters as a whole grow up and think reasonably and responsibly, we are stuck doing nothing about obvious problems like this.

    Obviously the gas tax should have at the least been indexed for inflation over these past several decades, just as it is obvious that corn ethanol is a boondoggle, and that we can’t afford to pretend to be sheriff of the world. It is also obvious that the economic sanctions against Cuba haven’t worked, just as it is obvious that constantly importing massively more than we export is unsustainable.

    Unfortunately the problem isn’t just spineless politicians and cynical behind the scenes manipulators. The problem is that, as a group, the voters are neither well informed nor thoughtful in their choices. Few people seem to get further than the “me hate gas taxes, me vote against anyone who for gas taxes, uga buga”.

    • 0 avatar

      John,

      It’s not your money. You have no moral right to my money.

      Also, if the modern Republican party would consider Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan socialists (which they don’t, they see Eisenhower as a moderate Republican, Nixon as a non-conservative who increased the size and scope of the federal gov’t, and Reagan as reflecting the center right views of at least a plurality of Americans), just which historical Democrats would you say are too far left?

      I’ll put aside the question of race and the racist history of the Democratic party and political progressives in the US.

      It’s an interesting thought experiment. The right is supposed to, today, be driven by hard core ideological right wing extremists. Okay, for argument sake, let’s accept that. I’m conservative/libertarian but I can identify people to my right and those like Ron Paul, with whom I have strong ideological differences. Fine. Now I want you to say just which Democrats, historical or current, are too left wing for your tastes?

      The Netroots Nation types say that Obama is a disappointment to the left, that he isn’t governing left enough. So my question remains, just who on the left in the US is too far left for your tastes?

      • 0 avatar

        “I’ll put aside the question of race and the racist history of the Democratic party and political progressives in the US.”

        Most of whom found a home within the GOP over the past few decades, notably following the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

        By the way, if you see government as having no moral right to your money, try not paying your taxes to the IRS for a few years. It amuses me to no end seeing people rant and rave about taxes, yet they obediently render unto Uncle Sam which is Uncle Sam’s come April 15.

      • 0 avatar

        ALL infrastructure is SOCIALIST. When you step off your property, you step ON to SOCIALISM. The sidewalk, the road, the sewers and water mains, the airport. They cost $$ to build and maintain. Sometimes you get a bill for your portion, sometimes its collected in a gas tax. The more you use, the more you pay. Its not about “rights”, its about what is right. Do WE want to continue to treat our country like a cheap whore, or do we want to buck-up and raise the money to even begin to repair and replace the at least $2TRILLION we are behind so we dont have repeats of MSP. All the fuel efficiency in the world will be wasted if we still move along at 5 mph on disintegrating roads. As the chart shows, we ARE NOT “TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY”.

        Pretty much the only way around it is to ride a bicycle or live in the woods.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        John Wiliams, prove it. You accuse someone of racism, you need to prove it. And don’t say voter ID laws or something like that give hard real examples. By the way, which party featured a KKK officail unti lhis death a couple years?

        Any of you who want higher taxes, feel free to pay more. The rest of us want to see a much smaller, less intrusive and powerless federal government before we talk tax increases to pay down debt. Get rid of 90% or so of federal programs and employees then I will support some small increases to pay down debt faster. Are any of you willing to do that?

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Considering the whole concept of “money” and “yours” depends on a government willing to backstop those with laws and financial structure, the whole “moral right” argument suddenly becomes fairly specious.

        You benefit from the existence of a social contract, shared infrastructure and the rule of law. The wealthy, generally, benefit more** as they’d have more to lose under anarchism, so it’s moral that they pay more.

        If you don’t like this, you’re free to move to any one of a number of failed states, sorry, Libertarian paradises where the letter of the law and the social contract doesn’t exist, and where morality surely must be paramount.

        ** In democratic socialist countries we, essentially, socialize the protection of private property to the benefit off all. Imagine if all those rich folks had to employ mercenaries, how much it would cost them? Private armies are expensive, especially if when you have to pay them to stop fighting.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Social contract aside, Psar, does he provide something worthwhile and legal, goods or services, to someone? Does that someone agree to pay him for what was provided? If so then it is his money. He earned it, it wasn’t stolen or gotten by cheating so it is his. You make it sound like everything comes from the government, like it’s up to them to distribute it however they see fit.

        You are setting up the failed states arguement as a straw man, an easy one for you to knock down. But it’s not a legitimate arguement. No one here is saying no government, complete freedom or anything close to that. We have talked about the rule of law and property rights way to much to accuse us of wanting anarchy. We want the rule of law back, we want the government smaller and less powerful. We want the money we pay in taxes spent wisely and frugally. You just don’t seem to care, your idea is that if we just spend a little more then we will achieve paradise on earth. It’s not true, government has a terrible record when it comes to spending wisely.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        “It’s not your money. You have no moral right to my money.”

        It’s so simple isn’t it? That’s all it’s about. The sad fact is that your unwillingness to pay taxes costs me my money. Lousy schools (leading to all sorts of social and economic costs), crumbling roads (my last alignment cost me 150 bucks, care to send me something to help me out?), I could go on and on, but you won’t listen, you’re too worried about your money.

        When the economic collapse happens because the idiots running the House of Representatives succeed in bringing about the first-ever Federal default, can I send YOU the bill?

        Didn’t think so…

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The funny thing about the private property/my money moralists is that said same property and money originated with government action in the first place. All US private property is in someone’s name today because it was at one time taken by force by the US government or by some other government which then sold it to the US.

      A functioning society requires a functioning government and taxes. Randian moralists like to wrap themselves in a cloak of supposed invincibility by screaming MY MONEY and MY LAND and MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, but they neglect to acknowledge that all of those things at some point became “theirs” after first being “ours”.

      Government is also by its very nature the portion of society which is empowered to use force. The police are empowered to use force, the military uses force and so on. Every functional society needs and organized and consistent manner by which the use of force on one another is both limited and sanctioned. That may not be intellectually satisfying, but not every truth is pretty. The alternative is anarchy, and there is no place on earth where anarchy has yielded any sort of a paradise, let alone a place civilized people would care to live.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        You have no right to complain until you give back everything that was taken from someone else. Are you a property owner? If so give it to an Indian tribe, after all it was once theirs. Do you have a job? Give it up, you’re keeping someone else from being employed. If you do anything in your self interest you’re being a hypocrite to hold anyone else to those standards.

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        Actually, native Americans did not have a concept of property ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        They didn’t file deeds at the courthouse or put up picket fences but they did have a concept of property. If you were in one tribe just try crossing into another tribe’s territory. They had a very well developed sense of territory.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        tribal ownership is not private ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        Occupancy but not ownership. This history of the North American tribes is all about using force to occupy the best lands. Hence the willingness of many eastern tribes to unite with Europeans to oust other tribes from choice land. Ownership implies deeds and courts and written records. Occupancy implies might-makes-right.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    I don’t see how a design flaw in a bridge is a good example of why we need a higher gas tax….but whatever…

    However…it is true that we don’t pay a realistic price for our gasoline….it’s FAR too high.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The bridge and thousands of others have not had all the maintenance they should have had. Bridges have a limited lifespan and need replacing/major repair over time. That takes money.

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        “Maintenance”….or lack there of, is NOT the reason the 35W bridge collapsed. It was a design flaw.

        What’s even more interesting is that there was maintenance being done to the bridge when it collapsed. Lanes were shut down…it wasn’t even supporting the full load that it normally would. Again…design flaw

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        “Maintenance”….or lack there of, is NOT the reason the 35W bridge collapsed. It was a design flaw.
        The design of the bridge was flawed, yes. Which meant that it required replacement, this having been noted as far back as 1990. But guess what? There wasn’t enough money.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        If that bridge was identifed in 1990 as needing critical repairs, then the design flaw isn’t what brought it down. Spineless bureaucrats did, who didn’t close that bridge when it became unsafe. You don’t just go merrily along because there isn’t enough money; you take preventative action until there is enough money.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’m glad that the auto executives we had to bail out want to lower the rest of our standards of living still further to make their lives easier and more fruitful. At least they have an argument that will fool the sort of people who elected the current regime. Why didn’t the unionized public school teachers actually teach the children? This is why.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Didn`t you read the whole article, the thrust being that any gas tax raised goes on roads. Since our roads are not being maintained at the rate they should do then yours and mine mobility will be restricted.

      Ronnie – I agree it is your money but I am very happy to read that you support some increase in the gas tax. Could you just have a word with Grover and ask him to stop the knee jerk reaction against any and every tax, since you admit this tax is useful and important.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve been around long enough to know the money will be diverted, and that the politicians false promise of good roads aren’t worth expensive food, expensive clothiing, fewer jobs, more business closures and hastening us towards our personal Greece meltdown by shackling the country with more government employees with compensation packages set by the ought-to and should imbeciles who got us here. What would our roads look like if our gas taxes didn’t already subsidize useless mass transit corruption?

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      It’s already been repeatedly shown that gas tax money goes exclusively to construction and maintenance of the nation’s transportation network, not some kind of general slush fund. So we can toss that component of your argument out right there. Your repeated conspiratorial digs at unions notwithstanding, I find your backwards assertion that everyone who disagrees with you must be your intellectual inferior to be an amusing indicator of the level of hubris in the far right wing these days. Really, I have no moral qualms about forcing you and people of your political leanings to pay for decent roads for everybody. I don’t fancy the dirt trails you seem to be saying you would prefer.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Get your fingers out of your ears. The people calling the shots in the whitehouse are already planning on turning the HTF into a progressive pinata of mass transit projects.

        http://www.google.com/search?q=highway+trust+fund+rail&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWN

        The HTF isn’t a constitutional right. The same people that want to raise taxes want carte blanche in how they pump the revenue to their friends, and they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it under this regime.

        I’m just pasting this ppost by CJ because there is no reason to say anything else.

        A single paragraph in the Transportation Department’s fiscal 2012 budget could fundamentally alter the funding mechanism for highways and other transit. The administration is calling for replacing the current highway trust fund with a “transportation trust fund” that will have separate accounts for highways, transit, high-speed rail, and a national infrastructure bank. In the near term, this means that highways would see only a slightly smaller share of the overall national transportation funds that also go to intercity transit and passenger rail. But over a longer period of time, the move away from a dedicated highway trust fund signals the administration’s desire to wean the country away from the automobile.

        The above is a paragraph from an article in the National Journal. There is no need to say anything else. You are wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        I’m not wrong, I’m just saying things you don’t want to hear. You will notice that I said “transportation network”in my original post, not just roads. I understand that conservatives have an irrational fear of railroads, but they also form a portion of that transportation network and they also need to be maintained. You can post all the baseless speculation you want from right-wing journals, but that does not change the basic fact that we need to increase the revenue stream to our maintenance program, or pretty soon we won’t have any decent roads at all. A gas tax hike is the easiest and most logical way of doing that.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Is anything that you don’t agree with right wing and automatically wrong? And just where did you come up with an irrational fear of railways? Where did that come from, thin air? Has anyone ever said anything bad about railways except to note that passenger rail cannot exist without heavy subsidies on this country? I know I’ve said that before and I provided documentation for it.

        Besides, you are trying to change the subject, this isn’t The Truth About Trains. The original post was about gas taxes paying for better highway maintenance and construction, not about mass transit, rail or bike paths. Notice that no one has said no to a small increase if the money was spent for highways only.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        PintoFan: It’s already been repeatedly shown that gas tax money goes exclusively to construction and maintenance of the nation’s transportation network, not some kind of general slush fund.

        Incorrect. It has been repeatedly shown that the federal motor fuels tax was originally instituted to pay for federal HIGHWAYS, and over the years the law has been amended to divert an increasing amount of this non-road projects (mass transit, bike paths, downtown beautification projects, etc.). Over one third of the revenues are currently diverted to non-road projects.

        When motor fuels taxes are spent on their original purpose – highway and bridge and construction and maintenance – we can then talk about raising them.

        PintoFan: So we can toss that component of your argument out right there.

        No, what we will toss is your incorrect assertion that this diversion isn’t happening, or doesn’t matter because we’ve allowed more of this money to be spent on non-road and bridge repairs, but still classified them as “transportation projects.”

  • avatar
    carguy

    Ed – a good and courageous editorial – kudos to you. However, I see problems with a focus on gas for revenue – here are my top two:

    1. Other governments that have taxed gas with the justification of better infrastructure have nearly all diverted these revenues into general slush funds and still have much the same quality infrastructure they had before the tax. In effect it has just been a rise in general government revenue that targets one product.

    2. This is a regressive tax that proportionally hits poor and working class families more that others. That demographic spends a greater proportion on essentials like food and commuting and these will all go up in price due to higher energy costs.

    If you see the need for more revenue for infrastructure investments and deficit reduction then I would suggest that this is better achieved by a broad based national consumption tax than targeting any specific item such as gas.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Carguy – number one is solved by the current law and use of the gas tax. It would not go elsewhere. I can see your point on number two but we are talking about no more than maybe a 10% increase (say 30c for starters). That is a marginal increase in motoring costs easily solved when people change cars and go from a 20mpg to a 22mpg average vehicle – hardly limiting their mobility.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Get your fingers out of your ears. The people calling the shots in the whitehouse are already planning on turning the HTF into a progressive pinata of mass transit projects.

        http://www.google.com/search?q=highway+trust+fund+rail&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWN

        The HTF isn’t a constitutional right. The same people that want to raise taxes want carte blanche in how they pump the revenue to their friends, and they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it under this regime.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        @CJinSD:
        I see a proposal, not a program. Everyone has ideas, but they have to make it through Congress first. I’m not a fan of mass transit either, but to reject the entire idea of a gas tax hike because someone, somewhere, might attempt to divert a small amount of the money to mass transit sometime in the future is pretty ridiculous. Your continued talk about the “constitutionality”of the HTF is just as specious. There were no cars or freeway system in the 1780′s.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Look at this link.

        http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/91xx/doc9135/AppendixB.5.1.shtml

        Table B-1, you will see a category for Transit Accounts. That is Highway Trust Fund money spent on rail and other mass transits projects now and in the past. So yes money is being diverted from highways right now and was in the past. So tell me now why I should trust the Feds to use the money for highways only.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Because, Mike, I never said a word about spending the money on highways only. You’re the one that seems to be stuck on that. The gas tax is meant to fund the upkeep of the entire transportation system- including railroad and mass transit. That’s been the case for a long time. Money isn’t being “diverted”away from anything- it’s being used for the purpose that it was intended. You are just complaining because you probably hate the entire idea of mass transit and don’t want to see a single dime put towards it, even though it’s the only option for many people.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Uh, you don’t get it, the objection of pretty much everyone has been tht the tax is funding everything but highways. To make it simple for you we think it ought to be for highways only and wedon’t want it raised until then. Do you get that?

        Yeah I hate mass transit sure, in fact I want to end it all and then cut the legs off all the poor people who use it. It’ll be a hoot watching them try and get around then. Does that reinforce your stereotype of conservatives? Grow up and discuss the issue like an adult and quit trying to insult me.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        PintoFan: The gas tax is meant to fund the upkeep of the entire transportation system- including railroad and mass transit. That’s been the case for a long time.

        The federal government created the Highway Trust Fund in 1956, and revenues from the motor fuels tax were originally to be used solely for highway construction and maintenance.

        This changed in 1982, when a new account was created solely for mass transit. And now we are at the point where over 1/3 of revenues from the this tax are being diverted to non-road projects, and all of a sudden we have a “crisis” regarding the state of our roads and bridges.

        Given these facts, the first priority, looking at this logically, should be to return to the original plan having the revenues from this tax pay for federal roads and bridges.

        PintoFan: Money isn’t being “diverted”away from anything- it’s being used for the purpose that it was intended.

        No, it is being diverted to other, non-road projects. If all of the revenues raised by the federal motor fuels tax were being used for their original purpose, there wouldn’t be a “crisis” right now.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    A higher US gas tax is a non-starter.

    The right doesn’t like it because all they like to do is bitch about government (all while trying to expand it into our private lives in areas such as abortion and prayer.)

    The progressives don’t like it because consumption taxes on staple goods are inherently regressive.

    The apolitical middle doesn’t like it because it costs money, and most of the country would prefer to run deficits than to pay for what we get in real time.

    In any case, regardless of how one feels about the gas tax, it is a cop out for an auto executive to point fingers at low US fuel prices as an excuse for their failure to build a high quality small car. Toyota and Honda made plenty of money selling four-cylinder midsizes and compacts to the American people, and there isn’t any good reason why GM shouldn’t have been in those spaces first and better than companies from abroad that lacked GM’s former branding strength and large scale distribution network.

    This sounds like another example of GM blaming the world for its ills. Just shut up about politics, and make the Cruze the best damned car in its class, bar none. (And while you’re at it, give the thing a new name, as it sounds a bit too, er. heterosexually challenged.)

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      In any case, regardless of how one feels about the gas tax, it is a cop out for an auto executive to point fingers at low US fuel prices as an excuse for their failure to build a high quality small car

      +1. A low gas tax didn’t force anyone to build the Caliber and Aveo.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        A low gas tax didn’t force anyone to build the Caliber and Aveo.

        Or the Pinto, or the Vega, or the Gremlin, or the Omni, or the Chevette, or the Cavalier…

        The problem is personified by guys such as Bob Lutz, who just assumed (wrongly) that smaller cars were a compromise that no Americans really wanted. They put little effort into building them, which meant that young buyers affixed their brand loyalties to imports and transplants, and stayed with them.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        I hate to be that guy, but the Pinto does not deserve to be on that list. It was a good car caught up in a bunch of mass hysteria about a problem that was far less severe than anybody wanted to admit.
        I’ll defend the Omni too, because that was a pretty valiant effort from Chrysler and it was pretty competitive with the products of its day. The Vega was a reasonably good design let down by horrible materials quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Pch101, good to have you back.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      The reason American, I mean, UAW car makers can’t make a high quality small car is that the UAW adds nearly 2000 dollars to the price. Since the automakers can’t charge more and remain competitive, that cost comes out of quality, content, and research and development. While that $2,000 disadvantage can be hidden in a vehicle that costs $40,000 – it is glaringly obvious in a car that costs $15,000.

  • avatar
    Neb

    Very nice article, Mr. Niedermeyer. I agree with you totally. It’s nice to see that the gas tax issue has reached the point where a broad swath of people now think it should happen.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      What ‘broad swath of people’ would that be? A quick perusal through the comments here indicate anything but consensus on this subject.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I dare say there are fewer people than ever that want to cripple the entire economy for the benefit of the US auto industry.

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        Well, considering that Edward cites people inside the auto industry from CEOs to industry analysts, and a ex-Republican senator, I figured that’d be enough for a swath. (To say nothing on broad spectrum support from lefty types.)

        But you are right, this single internet thread (in which five ‘gubbermint spells EVIL’ types are about 40% of the posts) certainly does indicate otherwise, my mistake

  • avatar
    erikhans

    It is all well and good for a higher gas tax, but what everyone has seemed to fail to mention is that the US and Canada are heavily dependent on the automobile……because of our lack of a cohesive public transport system. Lets face it cars are a true luxury in the of the rest of the world. The powers that be in our part of the world decided that we all must drive and own cars. The higher gas prices are fair in Europe as the general public has other options to get around. If I were to get rid of my car here in California a visit to my parents house wold become a 2 hour travel extravaganza. (by car it is 30-40 minutes.) I would love to get rid of my car completely. Don’t get me wrong I love to drive and appreciate a nice long road trip, but owning a car is a horrific waste of money. For, people like Lutz and Akerson a higher gas tax means nothing at all. They will still drive around in their Caddies and Beemers, etc.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Gas Tax should be a fixed percentage amount not a fixed “cents” amount. If they had done that “way back when” we wouldn’t have even noticed it.

    And since energy is a strategic issue for this country, I don’t have a problem with trying to reduce how much we use and possibly trying to curb some of the instability in prices.

    The price rises of 2008 were one of the catalysts that help collapse our economy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I remain very much on the fence about the whole “raise the gas tax!” issue.

    On one hand, I would like nicer roads and fewer dead soldiers and I hate CAFE and ethanol subsidies.

    OTOH, I’m not convinced that a high gas tax is going to be a magic bullet for all those issues. It would also make the price of nearly everything go up. I also question the constant European comparisons. The big differences between the two continents are nearly always ignored.

    I don’t care about helping automotive planners either.

    Finally, a gas tax would be regressive and hit low income folks that don’t have the ability to just switch vehicles. You’d really have to support the Mother of all Cash 4 Clunkers Programs© to avoid this. It’s comparatively easy for wealthy executives and bloggers/internet commenters that work at home and drive around in European sports cars or $30K muscle cars to support a higher gas tax.

  • avatar
    Stacy McMahon

    Perhaps if anyone (but you) ever advertised the gas tax as supporting the HTF, and explained what the HTF was, it would get a lot more support. But instead of that, lefties go around talking about how only a confiscatory gas tax can make fat, stupid, lazy red staters walk to their mailboxes in the afternoon instead of driving.

    Would you vote for someone who tells you upfront that the goal of their policy is to artificially make your lifestyle unaffordable, because they hate you? Me neither.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Comparing the gas tax of 1993 has to consider inflation (which you did) and the fact that cars used more fuel on average in 1993 compared to today because there was a lot more pre-CAFE stuff in the fleet then.

    I would prefer a higher gas tax to CAFE, but I am not sure why we need either. Governments by nature always want more and more and more of my money. But the more we give them, the more they seem to need. I have yet to hear of the tax increase that solves all the budgetary shortfalls leads to big surpluses. Government will, by its nature, keep finding new things to spend it on.

    We cannot consider the gas tax in a vacuum. Governments at all levels have been raising taxes for years, but their budget problems get worse.

    Here’s the question: When the UAW has a new lower tier for new hires, and where the percentage of union membership in the private sector continues to go down, look at road and bridge construction contracts in virtually every state. This is all expensive Union labor. The Postal Service is on the verge of insolvency, as are some states in the US. Why no discussion of paring back compensation levels as has been happening in the private sector for years. Government is notoriously bad at efficiency. But when they run short, the first resort is always to demand more of your and my money.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      Are you aware that Americans are paying the lowest amount of taxes since Harry Truman’s presidency? According to a USA Today analysis of federal data:

      “Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”

      This analysis suggests that your argument is not grounded in facts.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      I completely agree with you about the reduction in government employee wages/benefits. Compared to the private sector the current levels are ridiculous. In MI a state legislator that has served for six years is entitled to lifetime health benefits, where does that happen in private industry? The MI legislature is currently voting on eliminating the lifetime health benefits but how much money has just that one item cost us? Government employees and elected officials think they deserve benefits that far outstrip what private sector employees receive. Without question that needs to change.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Being a state legislator is close to the top jobs in the government of Michigan. Benefits are better this high in the private sector.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        You forget, no one forced him to take the job, he actively campaigned for it. Legislating was never intended by the Founding Fathers as a career. You are a public servant, priviledged to have the position. Serve a couple of terms and go back to the private sector, that’s what was intended. We were never meant to have a permanent political class with careers in the legislatures. As such, there should be no benefits and very low pay for elected officials. Let them live like the rest of us.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Do you think Akerson just got the job or did he actively worked to become CEO of GM?

        Founding Fathers don’t mix with democracy. I know it is blasphemy for Americans but it is the truth

      • 0 avatar
        mtymsi

        What private sector job outside of perhaps a C level position with a golden parachute has lifetime health benefits for six years of employment?

        A state legislator IMO is not equivalent with a C level executive position. The vast majority (read almost every single one) of them were not C level executives prior to their elections and don’t go on to become C level executives after their legislative service. (MI btw has two term=8 year term limits for all elected state positions)

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “Governments at all levels have been raising taxes for years, but their budget problems get worse.”

      Ah, a big lie which is repeated over and over again is still a lie.

      Now, how about a bit of the truth:

      “Federal, state and local income taxes consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”

      http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2010-05-10-taxes_N.htm

      There are countless similar stories out there, and USA Today is hardly some leftist paper. The fact is that taxes today in the US are at their lowest fraction of income and GNP in over sixty years.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        John, you’re being disingenuous there. You have selectively picked a number to fit your premise. It didn’t work though. Your number is for the population as a whole, over half that population is receiving government benefits and not paying anything in and getting payments like the earned income credit. Now I’m going to guess that the tax burden for those of us who pay is higher than ever. I know mine is. Don’t cry about us being undertaxed unless you are donating to the Treasury. Do your part, it starts with you. Until you do that, no whining about being undertaxed ok?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        As an addendum to my post above, the historic rate is skewed by the greater percentage of taxpayers in the back years. Now so many don’t pay and receive benefits that the overall tax rate for the population shows as being lower.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      @Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009

      Dr. Lemming, this is a misquote. John Horner has the quote right in that it is INCOME taxes that consumed 9.2%. Add everything else in, and the USA today analysis claims that tax intake is the lowest since the Truman Administration. but these are 2009 figures in the midst of a nasty recession.

      My question then is this: The Tax Foundation calculates Tax Freedom Day every year by adding all taxes (federal and state) and dividing this sum by total income. Tax Freedom day was April 12th this year. This works out to 28% of the average American’s income going for taxes of all kinds. This is the Average. Some states are higher.

      And guess what? The government (at all levels) can’t make it on over a quarter of ALL of our incomes. There is something very basic wrong here. Not even God wants more than 10%.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    I would gladly pay 10-20c per gallon just to have the peace of mind that the bridges that I use every weekend won’t collapse. I really don’t like using some of the Interstate bridges in my state because of their severe rust and concrete spall. Part of the problem is that New Hampshire would regularly ask for one quarter of the Interstate funding that Vermont would (gotta have small government!) and the other part was a small city that had to have big city sidewalks from one end to the other (walking is SO MUCH better for you!).
    I don’t understand why there wasn’t an immediate cry from the public when the I-35 bridge collapsed. There were some peeps for about two months it was too soon quiet again. If I had temerity there’d be a site featuring ALL of the red listed bridges out there and do a “Red Listed Bridge of the Week” feature. First up, the main span over the intersection of I-89 and I-93 featuring nasty concrete spall and nicely disintegrated rebar.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      I would gladly pay 10-20c per gallon just to have the peace of mind that the bridges that I use every weekend won’t collapse.

      Really? You worry about the bridges you cross? What are the odds of the U.S. having another 35W incident?

      Planes crash at a rate FAR greater than bridges collapse. Should airlines have a MASSIVE tax increase?

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        I only worry because I don’t like seeing exposed rebar in support columns on bridges that see high salt accumulation and vehicle loads. IIRC the bridge was designed for 35,000 vehicles per day back in 1964 and currently it sees at least 60,000. Also, I don’t like how there is just black sheet plastic and 2x4s stopping concrete and asphalt from falling from underneath this particular bridge onto the highway below. I do like how it stops things from falling on me but it doesn’t really give me a feeling of confidence….

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        “Planes crash at a rate FAR greater than bridges collapse. Should airlines have a MASSIVE tax increase?”

        What are you saying here? The airlines benefit from bundles of tax money – everything from airport construction/maintenance to the use of gov’t airwaves for communication.

        And still they want to charge higher fares AND charge for carrying bags on.

        Further, airlines benefit greatly from technology that was developed by the military or NASA.

        And also, the odds of having another 35W incident increase more each day as bridges around the country go without necessary maintenance.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Even assuming the statement that all fuel taxes go into a dedicated fund is correct, it overlooks the fact that money is fungible. More money spent from that fund is other money now freed up to spend on other “worthy” needs like welfare and social programs of dubious value. If the panhandler actually spends your dollar on food he can spend someone else’s dollar on crack.

    It’s high time to drop the nonsense about how all our defense spending is to protect oil imports. There isn’t a drop of oil in Afghanistan; whatever reason we have to be there has nothing to do with energy. Our involvement with Iraq over the past 20 years has done nothing but endanger the flow of oil from the region. (Even if Saddam had kept Kuwait he still would have sold us all the oil we wanted and would have have no greater leverage over its price.) America’s global military presence goes back to Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet – a time when almost all our oil was domestic. Our Pacific fleet is mainly concerned with protecting Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea – nations not generally known as big oil suppliers. In the Indian Ocean we’re protecting all manner of shipping from pirates, whether they’re private yachts or oil tankers. Al-Qaeda wouldn’t hate us any less if we stopped buying Mideast oil; their ideology has little if any economic component. (They would probably turn it around on us and claim “The infidels now want to starve Muslims by not buying from us!”)

    However, the gas tax really is too low to keep up with inflation. So how about we start by making the tax on gas equal to the tax on diesel? When the interstates were built they figured the trucking industry could pay for it since they were the prime beneficiary, hence the higher tax for diesel. Now the interstates are full of cars that are riding on the back of the truckers and I’m paying disproportionately higher taxes to fill my TDI Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Trucks cause most of the wear and tear on our highways, so it is correct that they should pay for the maintenance. Besides, the roads represent a capital investment in truckers’ jobs, so let them service it. The costs are passed on to consumers of goods transported in trucks at the end of the day, so we all pay based on the benefits we receive from our transportation infrastructure. Nobody made you buy a diesel.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Then under the principle that reducing trucking expenses would lower the cost of consumer goods they transport, why not lower diesel taxes? The trucks use more fuel per mile traveled so they pay more taxes per mile, which should go a long way for compensating for their extra wear and tear on the roads.

        The interstates also help support a million jobs in the tourism industry; maybe we should tax Disney World, etc for the benefit. Or tax nobody, since everybody gains and imparts a benefit.

        I bought a diesel because of its proven fuel efficiency. I’m using a fuel that requires less refining and has a higher yield per barrel than gasoline. No energy-intensive processing was needed to refine materials to make batteries. I’m not quibbling over the taxes I pay to fill my diesel, but I obviously touched a nerve when I suggested that buyers of gasoline don’t deserve the break they currently get.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m using a fuel that requires less refining and has a higher yield per barrel than gasoline.

        It’s the opposite. More gasoline is lost when diesel is produced than vice versa, because of diesel’s higher energy content.

        A barrel of oil includes both diesel and gasoline. There’s a limit to how much of each can be produced from a barrel of oil. Claiming that one should use one fuel and not the other is like arguing that we should only eat chicken wings, and that we should throw away the thighs.

        Diesel is slightly more efficient because of the higher compression of the engines. But both fuels are highly inefficient — most of their energy is lost in the form of heat — and the MPG differences do not reflect differences in efficiency, given the difference in energy content of the fuels.

        Diesel fans really need to learn more about their chosen hobby, as most of what they believe is not based in fact.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Trucks pay somewhat more but the damage is a lot more. Damage is one if not two orders higher than their higher per mile pay

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      There isn’t a drop of oil in Afghanistan; whatever reason we have to be there has nothing to do with energy.

      Look at a map. You’ll notice to the west of Afghanistan is a certain country called Iran.

      Now, look on the other side of Iran, and you’ll see another place called Iraq.

      Look northwest of Afghanistan, and you’ll see a place called Turkmenistan. To its west is the Caspian Sea, which just coincidentally is to the north of the aforementioned Iran. And interestingly enough, on the north shore of the Caspian is a place called Russia.

      The Caspian is full of natural gas. The Russians have wanted as much of that gas as possible to be routed through their territory. We would prefer there to be some non-Russian alternatives, and it would be really nice if the Iranian regime would collapse altogether.

      Gaining influence in the former Soviet breakaways has been part of the US post-Cold War strategy to contain the Russians, control Islamic fundamentalism, and assure that future supplies of natural gas are available, preferably without the Russians being able to excessively toll or otherwise take control over it. Meanwhile, had the Iraq war been a success, we would have the Iranians surrounded on two opposing borders. It’s naive to believe that Afghanistan was only about the World Trade Center (although that was certainly part of it).

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        If the gas is coming to come from the Caspian, the Russians will produce it and control the pipeline from which it flows, and there isn’t a thing the US or anybody else is going to do about it, even if we wanted to, which we likely don’t. Who else is qualified to develop and manage that resource? The Turkmen? Yeah, that’ll work. If Turkmenistan decides to scream foul over the “theft” of “their” gas resources, do you really think we’re going to lift a finger to assist? Sure, that seems like a great reason to start WWIII over.

        Our presence in that region merely inflames Russian distrust of us; we are neither assisting the Russians with their Islamist problem nor advancing our own interests. We got involved with the Afghan mujaheddin when it was part of a larger Cold War strategy; had the Taliban not been providing a haven for the 9/11 plotters we would have fine with leaving them to their sharia oppressiveness and squalor.

        As a base of operations against Iran, Afghanistan is second rate at best. It’s landlocked and too far away from the most important targets located mainly in the west. The threat from (and to) Iran will come from their long coastline. Iraq is and always was too unreliable to count on, and if we were counting on them to make a contribution we should have left them alone in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If the gas is coming to come from the Caspian, the Russians will produce it and control the pipeline from which it flows, and there isn’t a thing the US or anybody else is going to do about it

        Apparently, the US government doesn’t share your vision or agree with you, as it has been attempted by both parties since the Clinton administration to do otherwise.

        Our presence in that region merely inflames Russian distrust of us

        We’d rather have access to the gas, and to gain influence in the former breakaways.

        Iraq is and always was too unreliable to count on, and if we were counting on them to make a contribution we should have left them alone in the first place.

        But we didn’t.

        You’re confusing your vision of what American policy should be with what it is. When you claim that Afghanistan has nothing to do with energy, you ignore the fact that policy makers don’t agree with you on some rather basic positions. When evaluating the reasons for the policy, it’s their views that matter, not yours.

  • avatar
    tced2

    One of the problems is poor accounting for the uses of the current money raised by the gas taxes. I have no problem with paying for what I use.
    We need two numbers, the first is the amount of money raised by the current tax. Second, the amount of money spent on highways and other road improvement (not bike trails, light rail etc). Please find these numbers. They are pretty much hidden in the morass we call the federal budget (which is not a budget – it’s a fantasy list of numbers).
    The current administration is annoyed the current higher gas prices don’t yield higher tax revenues – in fact because of conservation, the revenues are lower. They would like $10 a gallon gas – with $5 a galllon going to the treasury.

  • avatar
    AaronT

    You know, I bet if we removed all of the subsidies for oil that would even everything out and we wouldn’t need to raise any taxes.

  • avatar
    Kabayo

    First of all, anyone using the Minneapolis bridge collapse as a justification to increase either taxes or regulation obviously has an agenda, as the collapse had nothing to do with a lack of funds (in Minnesota, land of 10,000 taxes?), nor with a lack of inspections. And yes, I am from Minnesota. I live less than 10 miles from that bridge.

    You can quote any number of statists and those beholden to them (the CEO of Government Motors – please!), but the government gets far too much from us already. Every time any tax is increased, the politicians spend (squander) all of it and more.

    If the gas tax was actually spent on roads and bridges, rather than boondoggles such as mass transit, traffic calming, bike paths, and other crap, there would be more than enough money in the highway trust fund.

    Stop misusing the money you have, cut all the wasteful, counterproductive, and unconstitutional spending, privatize everything possible, and after all of that is done, then we can talk.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    WHY is everyone freaked out about raising the gas tax? Fifty-cents? Beer money for most folks! People spent more on cigarettes and videos than they do for gas… come on, folks! Raise the gas tax, and build more trains, more windmills, more non-petrol using power sources. Otherwise, we shall continue to be slaves of the Muslim oligarchy!

  • avatar
    Manic

    You didn’t mention at all the basic fact that when fuel gets more expensive, everything, I mean EVERYTHING gets more expensive. US made goods, imported goods, just about every product made in or imported to US. That means decrease in competitiveness of American companies. More closures for factories probably. It’s not that you would pay only tax on fuel, you will pay more for everything because higher logistics costs. I don’t know how to calculate final result tho after all the + and – side arguments.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Actually no one needs to look any further than the most recent rises in consumer goods especially food to know that higher fuel prices increase the costs of everything else. And the double whammy is the higher prices further slow the economic recovery which is why the governments around the world are releasing fuel from the strategic reserves. While there is good rational for increasing gas taxes now is not the time to do it. Of course we won’t have that happen anyway owing to the election cycle and the Tea Party Republicans.

  • avatar
    StevenJJ

    Don’t do it – the ‘extra’ money will soon start going elsewhere.

    Prices here so high as to be on the edge. At the moment they are this side of the edge, when they do go over that edge (as happens from time to time) other things start happening… increased fuel theft from parked cars (thieves bang the tank and listen to the noise to ascertain how fruitful the raid will be)… increase of ‘bilking’ (driving off without paying) etc. etc.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I don’t get it…you really expect to keep everything for yourselves, and be given everything for free…
    But then I pay almost 2 dollars of tax (about 80% of the price) on every litre of gas I buy. And the old bimmer gets barely 25 mpg. Luckily I also pay more tax on tobacco, so It’s still more expensive to get cancer than to wear out our roads. Which is lucky because I assume we have a few hundred miles of road pr person in Norway. Income tax is just ca. 30% so we are better off then both the Danes and the Swedes :) And we have a ‘mixed-economy’ (socialistic capitalism)
    ( I admit the bureacracy (sp?) gets to me sometimes, but having a selection of voted ‘normal’ people decide for me sure beats having huge corporations economics decide for me.)

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      No one here is asking to be given anything for free, we are complaining about the way the money is spent and the continual demand for more. It’s not that we have to pay for government, it’s the government we are paying for. Most spending now is of dubious Constitutionality and so much of it is pure waste paid to government-favored constituencies.

      Beyond that, it gets old being told by do-gooders that we aren’t paying enough and those same people take every deduction they legally can on their taxes.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Ok, given things ‘cheap’ then. Considering the US has a political system that not only accept bribery put actually incourages it/or is ‘based solely on it’, political decisions (and juridical) are bound to cost lots of money.
        (No, we are not so much better, our politicians either just hide it better, or don’t take so much as to make it ridicoulously obvious)

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Given things cheap is a cheap shot on your part. Those of us here, for the most part don’t mind taxes that aren’t wasted. Most of our spending now is wasted. About half the people in the country are paying their way and for the other half of the population. We see money going to big banks and being soent on bonuses for management. There is a clear divide here between the givers and takers. We want a government that keeps us safe, enforces reasonable laws and provides basic universal services for everyone (highways specifically). We don’t expect free but we want it to be well spent. And don’t be self-righteous and tell us how evil we are for not wanting to give more to Leviathan.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Sorry for the cheap shot,but it’s that way everywhere. Adnministration costs,bureacracy costs.
        And as far as I can remember the US calls its political system a democracy, so you actually have a sort of choice. Even if it’s based on the slightly silly old british system, just with even more complications. If you vote for rich people, think about why they are rich. It’s not always because they like to share or give away money.
        But If I can remember right, gasoline prices haven’t gone up compared to wages since the 50′s and back then people could afford to drive cars that got maybe 15mpg at best. An increase in gas tax would probably be forgotten in minutes.

  • avatar

    the real tragedy is this article. taxes shpuld be decreased not increased. geesh! how dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Yeah, because lower taxes is the answer to every important question.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        And higher taxes are the answer to every important question.

        Part of the national debate should include consideration of the other things we fund, like endless social welfare programs / Ponzi schemes, public schooling, terrorist/questionable states, and ethanol subsidies.

        Correct those things, and we’d be awash in money without a need for regressive fuel taxes.

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    I admire your courage, Ed. Judging by the level of predictable outrage from our most zealous Norquist disciples, you probably won’t find much favor here. However, I think that most congress members have probably realized by now that some kind of gas tax hike is going to be essential eventually. It might get put off for a while, though. I just hope we don’t have another tragedy before then like that bridge collapse.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Don’t insinuate that because I don’t want a gas tax hike that I am a Norquist fan. He is an opportunistic POS who is a jihad supporter and willing to believe anything if the money is right. He has no credibility among 99% of outside the Beltway conservatives.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    If failing to raise enough taxes to properly fund your government continues to be all the rage your country ,and this policy continues to play all hell with your economy, perhaps the fire sale real-estate deals in the US will continue. If you want to sell out to foreigners we will do what can to oblige!

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Just remember though, you can’t take it with you. When Japan went crazy with US real estate back in the 80s, we just bought it back dirt cheap after their economy cratered.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    Interesting discussion and I think good arguments from both sides!
    It is also interesting sitting in Europe and see the Americans discuss. Our system here is so far left of the lefties in North America so it is difficult to comprehend. 8USD /gallon for gas. I pay more than 30% in income tax. My employer pays another +30% in tax on my income before I even see it. After that we pay 25% in sales tax! Plus other taxes. When I talk to friends in Italy, England, The Netherlands or The USA, we have one thing in common despite the different systems. After mortages, gas, insurances, food and clothes we can all buy a couple of beer and in the end of the month we are without money in our pockets.
    Saturday night here. Very few are religious over here. But everyone needs something to believ in, I believ I will take a cold one now!

  • avatar
    Rob

    Whenever someone tries to sell you something (like a car or a tax increase) and fails to talk about price, be very cautious. So what will the economic impact of higher gas taxes (or any other taxes) be on the U.S. economy, growth, employment, and competitiveness? Without that kind of analysis, any agreement to a tax increase would be as foolish as agreeing to buy a car without discussing price.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I believe I may have an answer. In Norway there is a tax on absolutely everything, including taxes on taxes :) It makes abolutely everything more expensive, so wages has to go up, and since almost half the working population in Norway works for the government, or some company partially owned by the government, or someone who sells stuff to some government instance or company owned by the government (because, even hospitals and police has to pay tax on what they buy) taxes has to increase, but then their wages has to increase, so that they can afford the taxes, which means all taxes and wages has to be raised so that they can pay their taxes and wages and so on. It’s an endless spiral payed for by oil money, and taxes. :)
      (theres tax on social security, which is tax money to begin with for crying out loud…)
      And for the capitalists out there, the banks makes loads of money transferring all this money back and forth :) Which they can then use to pay their taxes and their employees can pay taxes.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Norway is lucky in some ways. You have oil money and that covers for a multitude of sins and makes you able to afford your system for now. The other big difference is demographics, you are a fairly homogeneous society. We aren’t and this has resulted in favored classes and demonized classes. The productive are basically told they aren’t giving enough while the takers are told they deserve more.

        Looking at Norway’s situation, don’t you think that it is leading to or has lead to a kind of national arteriosclerosis? The system functions but not very well, you miss out on the benefits of an active growing country and econmy, but sooner or later the system will fail. What then?

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Well, the whole country shivers in fear everythime the oil prices go down (unlike the rest of the world)
        And we are essentially f**ked in e few decades unless we can make our selves less dependent of the oil income.
        But I don’t think very homogenous (well compared to the US we might be), for two reasons. Our economy has acted like bait on immigrants for 30 years, and hired workers, and we are spred quite thin geographically.( Norway is basicaly a long coastline,almost longer than the rest of NorthWestern Europe) A lot of the governing and tax-money goes to trying to cater for everyones different needs and the millons of miles of roads, not to mention the long distances makes everything more expensive when it comes to schools, hospitals, policing, transport etc.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      If all of the increased gas taxes collected were in turn spent on transportation infrastructure then the net economic effect would likely be stimulative.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        And if all of the revenues from the federal motor fuels tax were spent on repairing and building federal roads and bridges, the current “crisis” would likely disappear.

  • avatar
    segar925

    For those of you so eager to pay additional taxes, would you be willing to give all your income to the government and let a government official decide what you need? If not, when and where do you draw the line on what’s yours and what belongs to the government? Sooner or later the government has to live within its existing revenue, not raising taxes at every turn.

  • avatar
    axual

    I’m sorry, but car manufacturers have no business complaining or suggesting we all pay more taxes to solve their technical or financial problems.

    About 93% of each gallon of gas in my tank is used to move the vehicle, not me or the occupants. That’s a problem. Weight of components is one major issue and this problem can be improved significantly if the manufactures would get working on composites alternatives. Large trucks and trailers can also be lightened up.

    Granted, our roads need to be fixed. Let’s call for the 435 members of Congress to pay for their own health care and eliminate us taxpayers footing the bill for their comfortable retirement package, and apply all that money to roads.

  • avatar
    CraigSu

    If the federal gas tax is actually being used for infrastructure expansion and maintenance then I don’t have a problem with it. I am skeptical, however, because of the actions of my own state. Here in North Carolina we have one of the highest gas taxes in the nation and it’s just been announced that it will increase by 2.5 cents per gallon. It’s widely known that the gas tax fund is routinely raided to supplement the general fund of the state. As a result our roads and bridges aren’t nearly as good as they should be, especially in the western half of the state. South Carolina, however, which has a pittance of a gas tax compared to North Carolina, has much better roads because their gas tax is used only for its intended purpose. Talk all you want about how we need to raise the federal tax but, until I see evidence that the tax is used as intended, I remain skeptical.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Ok, good article, but let’s get one thing straight: the Minneapolis bridge did NOT collapse because of crumbling infrastructure. It was found that the bridge was UNDERDESIGNED. Not crumbling. The juncture plates were too thin to begin with, and corroded to a thinness not expected at the bridge’s age. This was a surprise to all, even the inspectors.

    PLEASE dont use this as an example of crumbling infrastructure. We Minnesotans are sick of it. Everybody called for the heads of government officials, and the governor pleaded with people to let the investigation finish. But too late – the Minneapolis bridge is wrongly pointed to as a result of crumbling infrastructure.

    Stop. Please.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Hey, plenty of lawyers make money due to crumbling infrastructure, which goes back into the economy. So maybe it all balances out.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      if the bridge was underdesigned the maintenance on that bridge was even more critical – obvious, given the collapse. The bridge held up for a number of years, didn’t it? This does not mean that maintenance on properly designed bridges doesnt need to happen.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        No, this is precisely the incorrect statement that everyone is repeating.

        The critical binding plates failed, not from lack of maintenance. Nobody expected these plates to fail. They are a non-maintained part, analagous to an engine block. Nobody expects an engine block to rust through, and nobody inspects them. The binding plates were made by a negligent contractor that is no longer in business, therefore nobody can sue. Otherwise they would.

        These are easy facts to find. They are publicly available and are no secret. It’s a tragedy of human idiocy, that the 35W bridge represents the concept of decaying infrastructure, when it did not decay but was criminally under designed. Kind of like blaming a lifelong smoker’s death on lung cancer and ignoring the root cause.

        Many, many people have made the same mistake of cause-and-effect you have. Unfortunately the 35W mass delusion continues. Its a virus. Imagine the taxes we’ll pay out of fear from a situation that never happened.

        Google “availability bias”.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        @bryanska Rather than having folks Google “availability bias”, let’s provide a link or two for folks so they can get this information.

        http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-11-13-628592230_x.htm

        Choice bits:

        “An interim NTSB report in January cited a design error as the likely culprit for the collapse: 16 fractured gusset plates. The plates, components that helped connect steel beams, were designed at only half the required thickness.”

        “In the case of these gusset plates at node U-10, there simply was no corrosion to identify in any areas associated with the fracture.”

        Or, for the full information, direct from the investigators:

        http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms/search/hitlist.cfm?docketID=44005&CFID=36923&CFTOKEN=49380975

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Taxes targeted for a specific use are a gimmick. I pay boatloads of income tax, but that doesn’t go towards income-enhancing government programs. I pay for electricity, natural gas, surage, water, internet, and garbage out of pocket, but my property tax goes to other people’s kids’ schooling. Social security and Medicare taxes go to people already taking out of the system, which is a pyramid scheme.

    So why should gas taxes be any different? Gas taxes should be evaluated on their own merrits. Suppose gas taxes were used to fund social security. Or perhaps the taxes collected could pay for an additional $5k increase in the standard deduction. The gas tax could be made to be revenue neutral and could be used instead of other regressive taxes.

    People say taxing gas is taxing a basic freedom. Well, income tax is taxing an even more basic freedom. You can switch to riding a bicycle, but anyone who “works” for a living is required to pay income tax–even if you barter for room and board in exchange for your work you are required to compute and pay income taxes on the value of your labor.

    With an increase in gas tax we could do away with lots of ineffective programs: ethanol subsidies, CAFE, hybrid subsidies, alt fuel subsidies, electric vehicle subsidies, etc. Why not get rid of all that complexity and go with a simple gas tax with corresponding reductions in other regressive taxes to make the tax revenue neutral?

    If the government wants to get involved in dictating vehicle design, I’d like to see requirements that the large and heavy “battering ram” type vehicles be required to not exceed a certain amount of crash danger to smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient vehicles. Many people I know consider a 4000 pound light-truck class vehicle the minimum for their own personal road safety. As a nation, we’re not going to get very far with fuel efficiency when the people buying new vehicles have that requirement. This would go under the heading of “protecting people from the dangerous decisions of other people.”

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      You call CAFE ineffective, yet it has been the chief force driving manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles for decades. Although I won’t win any popularity points for saying this, I think CAFE is probably one of the better regulations that we have on the industry today- because it forces manufacturers to think ahead and produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, rather than waiting for gas-price panics to create demand. If some of the loopholes in the law could be closed (such as the light-truck exemption) then it would be a lot more effective. A gas tax might dissuade people from buying inefficient vehicles, but it wouldn’t force manufacturers to comply with any kind of economy standard.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        If some of the loopholes in the law could be closed (such as the light-truck exemption) then it would be a lot more effective.

        Loopholes (such as the light-truck exemption) are the only reason the legislative soup sandwich of CAFE had any support domestically.
        CAFE dies without loopholes. Period.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Great OpEd, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    In America, politicians are so scared of taxes that we now must resort to various fees and charges to make up the difference (traffic cameras, as an example). The problem isn’t taxation per se, the problem is that we cannot have a reasonable discussion about taxation because the nutters on both ends of the spectrum take command of the dialogue and bastardize it.

    I think that there is also an inherent distrust of how our modern leaders use our tax dollars and there is a fear that additional dollars will not be used for what it is intended (Social Security trust fund, anyone?) and if it is, will become so pork-ladened as to become a joke.

    These are serious, serious problems that our nation needs to confront because it directly affects all of our common interests and ability to function as a (relatively) united group of states.

    I’m not certain how efficiently our highway tax dollars are used, but my gut tells me that it’s probably fairly well managed. I am generally anti-tax and I don’t trust Washington for anything, but I would gladly pay an additional $.10 – $.20 /gallon to see the roads properly maintained and help abolish the need for automated traffic systems. I think it’s a tax that everyone should be paying since everyone uses the roads – and since right now everyone buys gasoline, I have no problems raising that tax. Just put that money to use as soon as possible so I don’t have to worry about replacing so damned many tires and shocks.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      When he ran for President, Obama said he would review the federal budget line by line to cut any wasteful spending. I demand that he fulfill that promise and justify all of the spending that remains before I will agree to any tax increase for any purpose.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      It’s at the point now where I will consider voting for anybody that proposes any kind of tax increase, regardless of whether they be an R or a D. I just want to see somebody with that kind of courage run for office and break the cycle of debt. We can’t cut our way out of the current crisis, no matter what some people might tell you. We have to think of real tax reform if we are serious about lowering our debt level.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PintoFan, you are delusional. If you allow the government to tax more, it will merely spend more and the debt will remain the same. The ONLY way to reduce the debt is to reduce spending.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Rob, your argument seems to completely ignore what actually happened during the Clinton administration. Taxes were increased, the budget was balanced, the economy grew strongly and a budgetary surplus was handed over to the incoming Bush administration. These are cold, hard facts.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        John, the budget wasn’t balanced until the Republican Congress slowed the rate of spending. Total government spending went up during that time. Credit Congress, not the executive. Plus there was something called the internet that bubbled about then.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        John, I pray that Democrats run on the idea that Amercans are not taxed enough in 2012. And increased gas taxes hit everyone, not just the rich. Just the thing to give Republicans the Senate and the White House. Keep up the good work!

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        With the US total debt up to $176,356 per citizen, you couldn’t raise taxes high enough to ever pay it off. The only way is to reduce spending.
        http://www.usdebtclock.org/

        We’ve simply made too many financial commitments, and have to reduce them.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        John, you have been drinking liberal cool aid too long. For the real impact of tax policy on the economy in the 1990′s go to the following link:

        http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/03/tax-cuts-not-the-clinton-tax-hike-produced-the-1990s-boom

        BTW, if building roads is so stimulative, why didn’t all those “shovel ready” projects jump start the economy as promised?

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @Rob, I suspect that a paper by an organization whose home page is entitled “Conservative Policy Research and Analysis” would not necessarily be an impartial peer-reviewed one.

        Of course I could be wrong …

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @gslippy, why do tax increases and spending cuts have to be mutually exclusive?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        009, I suppose that to you would consider the Center for American Progress, Organizing for America, the Daily Kos and Huffington Post as unbiased sources of data? Don’t disregard the data because it doesn’t fit your ideology and don’t think that the people on the other side are stupid because they aren’t. You can’t disprove the facts and they won’t go away even if you pretned they aren’t there. So yeah, you are wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @MikeAR, no, I wouldn’t consider them unbiased, either.

        And as Mark Twain famously said, there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        th009, if you find anything in the Heritage Foundation piece that you think is inaccurate, let me know. If your whole argument is simply “conservative think tank is source, therefore information is wrong,” I am going to yawn.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Like I said, don’t dismiss it because you don’t like it. The thing is that it doesn’t fit your world view so must be wrong. Open up and read and think for yourself.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    +1 to everyone else who has mentioned a distrust of government to use the gasoline tax money for actual road infrastructure improvements.

    Too often we see government raiding the piggy bank for other programs. If the gasoline tax money can be firewalled and guaranteed to be used ONLY for infrastructure, I’m all for it. If it’s going to be open to raiding then I say forget it.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Agreed.

      A gas tax IS the best way pay for road maintenance. However, I have little faith in government when it comes to building and maintaining roads in a cost effective manner. Government road building is managed like GM in the 1980′s.

      How to increase faith in government road building:

      Repeal the Davis Bacon act, allow for competitive bids by construction firms to build (and maintain) highways, and mandate transparency regarding pay scales and benefits for employees who maintain any federally funded highways.

      Get the above done.
      Then – and only then – raise the gas tax.

  • avatar
    anchke

    More than a few presidential debates back, Bush observed, “It’s your money, you should spend it.” Gore replied, “Yes, it is your money, and you should get the benefit of it.” A pithier summary of the two political positions has not been heard since.

    Poli Sci majors tend to selectively recall the constitution’s comments on taxing authority. But they seem to pooh poor the accompanying obligations of honesty, frugality, accountability and transparency. Government’s charge to tax and spend is not open ended.

    And the “starve the beast” crowd needs to recognize that maintaining the public roads is a basic funbction of government, needs to be adequately funded, and it is the execution of the task that bears monitoring, not the idea of it.

    I’m also wondering: How can it possibly be that with the revenue the government currently receives, there is a sufficiency to conduct a perpetual “nation building” exercise in a “nation” that has always been a collection of tribes with low literacy rates, and yet the cash needed to repair the roads at home has dried up to the point that new sources of revenue must be tapped. Is it possible that the populace somehow senses the fecund aroma of BS in the air and believes there is plenty of money in the pipeline, but what’s lacking is the backbone to allocate it with purpose, not wheeling and dealing and mutual back scratching with one’s buddies?

    What if our national defense budget were only 5X China’s instead of 10X and the rest was used to fix our roads?

    Let’s forget the gas bag ideological debates and learn to analyze the numbers.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Please label your graph. What are the blue lines? What are the red lines? What are the units for the Y axis? What is the source of the data?

    The gas tax should be a percentage, and it should be set to keep the roads in repair, including replacing what needs to be replaced. While it is a regressive tax, if it gets too onerous for the poor let ‘em take transit. Moving more long distance freight to railroads would help the railroads, and drivers on the highways, and maintenance of the roads.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Gift Contributions to Reduce Debt Held by the Public

    The Bureau of the Public Debt may accept gifts donated to the United States Government to reduce debt held by the public.

    http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/gift/gift.htm

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Akerson wants the federal government to create an artificial advantage for the Volt so that he can sell them. It’s called “crony capitalism”.

    That said, I would be more than willing to pay a higher fuel tax (even $1 per gallon) provided ALL of the money is spent on the roads and bridges I use and none of it is misappropriated for mass transit boondoggles.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t disagree more. Wait. Let me think. No. I couldn’t. I’m 100 percent opposed to even a penny increase in gas taxes. In fact, I reckon Uncle Sam;’s current 18.4 cents per gallon levy is about 19 cents too high.

    Other than the simple fact that the U.S. federal government is the most inherently inefficient and corrupt and organization in America (with the possible exception of state, local and tribal governments), the federal gas tax is (as pointed out) regressive. Higher fuel costs punish the poor. Period.

    I lived in the UK—an oil exporting country with some of the highest fuel prices in the world. All thanks to Her Majesty’s Government. Petrol taxes account for 80 percent of the cost of unleaded fuel.

    The net result? A lousy infrastructure, an eternal traffic jam of dangerously small cars and a society whose low-income subjects can not afford mobility. As in moving about to find work. Or popping down to the shops to buy a few bags of groceries for the family in a timely fashion. Or taking their elderly relatives to the doctor.

    Simply put, anyone who favors an increase in federal gas taxes should give up their car for a month. Then tell us how they feel about the issue.

    The idea that a gas tax would fund a better mass transit system is laughable, if only because the UK mass transit system sucks dead donkey reproductive gear. (Wow! A government service that eats money and poops crap! What a surprise). Never mind. The poor are condemned to its non-loving embrace.

    And it’s not cheap either! Imagine that. Low income subjects are taxed if they buy gas and they’re taxed if they’re not. So what, exactly, does government gas tax do? Inflates the power and reach of bureaucrats at the expense of low and middle income Americans.

    Which is why, thank God, only a cranky minority of out-of-touch intellectual snobs favor it. This country needs less government spending and less tax. Anyone who doesn’t see that is part of the debt problem strangling our economy.

    For God’s sake people, at least don’t suggest ideas that make it WORSE.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Public transportation isn’t inherently bad, and works very well in certain situations. In the UK scenario London has an extremely effective public transportation system that makes car ownership unnecessary for most (I never lived there long term, but did spend a semester there in college). In the US there are a few cities, most notably NYC, where public transportation is the easier and more economical option compared to car ownership.

      Outside of major metro areas, you’re right, public transportation sucks. To be economical public transportation needs a geographically small area of service combined with a high density of population to serve. While Europe and Asia have plenty of relatively compact cities with high population density, the US is overall more spread out, and the comparatively low frequency bus routes offered as public transport in most non-major US cities are only suitable as an option of last, or only, resort.

      That being said, Britain’s light rail system is nice even outside of London, as is Japan’s, and either one is 16 oz prime dry aged ribeye next to the Steak-um we have in Amtrak. I’m not opposed to funneling some highway funds towards developing our rail infrastructure, especially if the infrastructure is for low or zero emission primarily electric trains. Even if the system results in a net loss monetarily, I believe a lot of the citizens of the US would be open to the idea of being able to travel to remote cities without having to worry about travel fatigue, paying for parking when they arrive, or wear and tear on their vehicles all while doing it for less than the cost of gas for the trip if they drove.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      @RF:
      I share your skepticism regarding the inefficiency of the feds (although “most corrupt” goes too far for me).

      Anyhow, interstate roads must be built and maintained. If not gas taxes, how? Via the progressive income tax?

      Private highways like the 407 ETR north of Toronto?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      +1, RF. Nice to hear from you.

    • 0 avatar

      Simply put, anyone who favors an increase in federal gas taxes should give up their car for a month. Then tell us how they feel about the issue.

      That’s easy. Before last October I hadn’t owned a car since 2005. Now that I do, I rarely drive anywhere during the week. In my out-of-touch, liberal, west-coast enclave, it’s very possible to live well without owning a car. In fact, many of my contemporaries can’t fathom why I spend all day writing about cars.

      Having “established my credibility,” I’ll just say that I’m totally sympathetic to the idea of starving government of money. Increasing the gas tax isn’t incompatible with a general program of limited-government reforms (notice that the fiscal crisis barely factors into the piece… that’s not because I don’t think it’s important, but because it’s a distraction from the real issue). My argument, in essence, is that when gas is as cheap as it is in the US, it perverts market function by hiding costs. Is the government the ideal mechanism for “glide-pathing” the inevitable correction? No, but it’s the only mechanism we have… and some of the externalities (such as crumbling interstates, CAFE inefficiency and the VMT tax menace) can only be fixed, mitigated or headed off by government.

      I hear a lot of principle in this comment thread, but I wrote the OP purely as a practical matter after spending time talking to folks inside the Beltway. It makes me as angry as the next guy that the world’s most necessary evil is being looted on all sides, but you can either rage against the machine or pick your way through the muck as carefully and conscientiously as you can. With another 40+ years of taxpaying ahead of me, I don’t really see retreating into anger as an option.

      • 0 avatar

        Ed, with all due respect, you don’t hold a conventional job or have a family to feed and shuttle hither and yon or live in a rural area (as do 59,274,456 Americans, apparently).

        Raising taxes is incompatible with any coherent concept of a (relatively efficient) limited government. To suggest that one tax is more defensible than another, or that one should raise tax in one area and lower it in another, is to engage in exactly the kind of horseshit that led to the Chevy Volt. If you know what I mean.

  • avatar
    ixim

    OK, OK. Ike aint President any more; the top income tax rate is a lot less than the 90% of his day; today’s $3.65 gas is about the same as his $.25 Super Shell while our cars need about 1/2 as much of it; and the Indiana Toll Road is owned by foreigners who will raise the tolls plenty for decades to come. Meanwhile, much of the wealth generated since the Interstates were built has been squandered by those who can do so, often using the government as a tool. And here we are arguing over whether to raise enough money to bring our roads back to the high standards of 50 years ago. Talk about national decline! Yes, our grandchildren and their children will have to toil at least as much as our grandfathers and fathers did to restore this Republic to anything like its former glory.

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    “the U.S. federal government is the most inherently inefficient and corrupt and organization in America”

    That is a very amusing comment, given that we are currently living with the terrible consequences of a a giant wave of corporate malfeasance that has, among other things, rendered real estate holdings worthless, stock portfolios greatly diminished, unemployment at record numbers, etc.

    The bottom line is, our infrastructure is woefully outdated and in desperate need of maintenance and upgrading. That costs money.

    For those of you who don’t feel they should have to pay their share, well, there’s always this option:

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      You’re really nice, you can’t discuss something without insulting those on the other side can you? You can’t debate based on facts so you resort to cheap insults. Grow up.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Detroit Todd: That is a very amusing comment, given that we are currently living with the terrible consequences of a a giant wave of corporate malfeasance that has, among other things, rendered real estate holdings worthless, stock portfolios greatly diminished, unemployment at record numbers, etc.

      All of which ultimately had its roots in government actions designed to “help” various groups of society. So that isn’t proving the point that you wanted to make…

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Anybody who wants to give our government more money, can do it without my help.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I don’t know why this has turned into a left/right argument, when we all drive the same crappy roads. The government, local, state or federal, is the one in charge of their upkeep, except for the few private roads out there. That government control isn’t going away, and I don’t want it to, as someone has to do this kind of stuff. I live in an area, NW Ohio, where the roads are very bad in general. There are several roads I drive on that are in pretty bad shape. They patch the craters as best they can, but there’s no money to do them right, and they admit it. Something needs to be done, and if a “lock” can be put on the money collected by raising up the gas tax, say .25 a gallon, I have no real objection to it. As long as that goes for transportation, and yes, that includes rail projects! About a year ago, I hit a crater that had opened up on a road that had only been repaved a couple years ago, and caused pretty severe damage to the front end of my car. If the road had been done the way it was recommended (Concrete, not asphalt)by the engineers that studied it, it wouldn’t be falling apart now. But there’s no money to do it that way, even though it would make more sense in the long run, by far. Instead, they did it with asphalt, and within 2 years, the North side of it is coming apart where it was widened 40+ years ago, with major potholes and there’s no money to do anything but patch it up until the next repave comes along, in five years or whatever. And it will be done with asphalt again, of course. I don’t expect to see it ever done right, because there’s no money.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Instead, they did it with asphalt, and within 2 years, the North side of it is coming apart where it was widened 40+ years ago, with major potholes and there’s no money to do anything but patch it up until the next repave comes along, in five years or whatever. … I don’t expect to see it ever done right, because there’s no money.

      “Because there’s no money” is a joke excuse for a road failing in 2 years.

      It’s MISMANAGEMENT, not the lack of funds. Whether a road is paved with asphalt, concrete, or Lego Blocks, it should never deteriorate in two years.

      These are roads, not interstellar spacecraft. If a firm’s product cannot stand up to 2 years of use or if the State Transportation Losers contracted for substandard material and/or result, they need to be held accountable.

      A road failing in 2 years is the same as an engine failing in 2 years/25K miles. It’s a warranty and accountability issue. It’s not something you just throw money at…

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The fallacy of this article is believing that higher gas/road taxes will improve infrastructure.

    That’s like saying spending more on education will provide smarter students. Makes one wonder how we got to the moon 10 years before the Department of Education was established.

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      Even if the doomsayers are right, then increasing gas/road taxes absolutely would improve our infrastructure, because apparently millions of poor people (Stop for a moment and thank whoever/whatever you believe in that you live in a country where “poor” people own cars) will be unable to drive. Fewer total miles traveled = less deterioration = better roads.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        That is not the reason. Higher gas taxes will persuade people to buy more efficient cars. A easy way to make a more efficient car is making it smaller. Lighter cars damage the roads less so better roads. Also people will drive less because it would be more economical to buy the widget locally for $3 more than to drive 50 miles

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The relationship between the damage a vehicle does to a road and its weight is not a linear one. An Explorer does not damage the road anymore than a Fiesta.

        Roads have to support 80,000 pound tractor trailers, so supporting the Explorer, or even the Expedition, is not a problem.

  • avatar

    Out of every ten cents that the government spends, ten cents (more or less) is lost to waste and corruption. If you think that giving more money to the feds to do what they already get paid to do will get it done, have a close look at that whole “shovel ready” deal.

    “Ring fencing” taxes for infrastructure will work just about as well as it has in the past. Which is to say not at all, eventually. For example, define “infrastructure.” Exactly.

    How about this for an alternative to raising gas taxes: eradicate or cut to the bone the Department of Transportation. Give the states, say, $10 billion PER YEAR to fix their roads and bridges and protect the safety of motorists, rail passengers, etc. (What are the odds that money would disappear down the rathole?) The ATF eats $1.5 billion for no particular reason. That might repair a road or two (or might not). Kill The Department of Education and liberate $50.7 billion per year.

    As for the ode to the UK’s mass transit system, I suggest that you view its charms from the perspective of a low-income person trying to commute to work, rather than a college student bumming around Britain.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Robert, while we’re at it there are lots of other places to cut. The Feds really need only 4 cabinet level departments, State, Defense, Treasry and Justice. All the others are completely unnecessary and are of dubious Constitutionality.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @Robert, are you saying that the federal government wastes 100% of its money, but the states are paragons of efficiency?

      • 0 avatar

        No. I was being sarcastic.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        thg009, while the Constitution does not specify which departments are allowed in the federal government, it does provide a specific list of powers of the federal government under Article 1 Section 8. This is usually called the “enumerated powers” and anything not listed is the power of the States or the People. Of note, one of the enumerated powers given to Congress is the power to establish post roads, so highway construction and maintenance is specifically allowed. However, you won’t find education and a lot of other things done by the federal government listed at all.

        On the issue of wasteful spending, the 2008 federal budget was approximately 2.9 trillion dollars. The 2011 federal budget was 3.8 trillion dollars. The 2008 Federal Highway Administration Budget was about 42 billion dollars. The 2011 request is also 42 billion dollars. No change.

        So let me get this straight. In two years, annual federal spending has INCREASED nearly a TRILLION dollars a year and yet none of that increase is going to the Federal Highway Administration! And yet some are arguing that we need to increase taxes to fix our roads?!?! We don’t need more revenues in Washington, we just need better priorities for the money they already have.

        In comparison, this is the budget for the Department of Education: 2009 $32 billion. 2010 $56 billion. 2011 $71 billion. This for a department that has not demonstrated it has improved education one bit despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent over three decades. Before I will agree to any more taxes to fund road repair, I want someone to defend every dime of other spending that they think is more important and explain why it can’t be shifted to roads.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m glad that people like to talk about the Constitution. It’s just a shame that so many of them don’t read or understand it.

        Article 1, Section 8 is not an exhaustive list of the powers of Congress. “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…” The “general welfare” is as about as broad as we wish it to be.

        Specific restrictions in the Constitution that are imposed on the Congress are fairly limited. Article 1, Section 9, entitled “Limits on Congress” is pretty short and sweet.

        But in any case, the existence of the Secretary of Education has nothing to do with this. Article 2, Section 2 gives the President the power to create “departments” which form his “cabinet”. The Constitution provides no specific list of what those departments should or shouldn’t be. If the President wants a cabinet member to deal with education, then so be it — if it upsets people that much, then they should find a different president who wants to get rid of it.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PCH101, if the federal government can do ANYTHING under the “general welfare,” “necessary and proper” and commerce clauses, then what was the intent of the 10th Amendment? Does it mean anything at all? If it is meaningless, why did the states insist on its inclusion in the Bill of Rights before ratifying the Constitution?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        PCH, don’t you think that activist judges have gone too far in their interpretations of general welfare? You can make a very strong case that modern judicial theory has turned that on it’s ear. General welfare means for the country as a whole. So much has been done to twist the Constitution to the benefit of specific groups that the general welfare has been ignored. The original intent is generally interpreted to mean that the Federal Government provides for defense, an uniterupted flow of commerce between states and the rule of law and proerty rights. That is general welfare, not the 2000+ page health care bill.

        You’re right, we need to elect a President and Congress who will level about 90% of the Federal Government. I am sure you will join me in voting for that outcome.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        if the federal government can do ANYTHING under the “general welfare,” “necessary and proper” and commerce clauses, then what was the intent of the 10th Amendment?

        The Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

        The Congress has a general authority to tax and govern — Article 1, Section 8 makes that clear. The stuff that it, the executive and the judiciary doesn’t handle goes to the states and the people.

        There is nothing in the Constitution that says that the President can’t have an Education secretary, nor does the president having one prevent the States from dealing with education. Your argument is flawed.

        Don’t try to hide behind your misinterpretations of the Constitution. The Secretary of Education is an extension of presidential power. If you don’t like it, get a president who will get rid of it.

        So far, you’ve had three Republican presidents who didn’t bother getting rid of it. You ought to consider the possibility that the idea of disbanding it isn’t on everyone else’s radar (despite their rhetoric), as it is on yours.

        If it is meaningless, why did the states insist on its inclusion in the Bill of Rights before ratifying the Constitution?

        Again, you really need to learn about the Constitution. The Constitution was first ratified by Delaware in December 1787, with Vermont being the last state in January 1791. The Tenth Amendment wasn’t added until December 1791.

        And you’re trying to argue a straw man. Nobody claimed that the Tenth Amendment wasn’t meaningful. The point being made here is that you don’t know what it means. We should interpret the Constitution based upon an understanding of its history and subsequent case law, not based upon your largely inaccurate distortions of it.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        PCH, James Madison wrote about the 10th Amendment, it was his thought that the amendment may not have been necessary but it was a good addition to the Constitution. The original intent did not include abortions like the EPA or the Education Department. Read US v. Darby from 1941. It kind of blows your loose interpretation out of the water.

        The Founding Fathers unfortunately never envisioned activist judges prostituing the law to suit their ideology or power mad bureaucrats and elected officials trying to make their version of Utopia come true.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The original intent did not include abortions like the EPA or the Education Department.

        Article 2, Section 2 allows the president to create departments.

        If you don’t like it, then go find others who agree with you and do something about it. Being whiny on the internet, as you butcher the Constitution and try to turn it into confetti, doesn’t really cut it.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Do you really believe that the Founding Fathers would have stood for all the added departments, especially the power grabbers liek EPA nd Education. And for a liberal to accuse someone of shredding the Constitution, that’s rich, pot meet kettle. Look at the 9th Circus. And I do vote for those people who offer the best bet to take the country back from the usurpers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Do you really believe that the Founding Fathers would have stood for all the added departments

        The Founders didn’t prevent it. If they wanted a fixed number of departments, then they would have created them and prohibited the president from having any more of them.

        In any case, we aren’t just bound to what the Founders did. We can create law, have new case law and amend the Constitution if we wish.

        The Founders provided a framework and some rules for how to change the rules. Unless you can show the rules were violated, you have nothing to bitch about.

        In any case, you’re being whiny and lazy. This is a democracy. If you don’t like a specific rule, then set about to changing it.

        If you can’t get enough support to make the changes that you like, then accept that the public doesn’t agree with you and get over it. Don’t sit there and accuse everyone else of violating the Constitution every time that you don’t get your way. That’s frankly childish and tedious.

        If you want to win in the marketplace of ideas, then argue for your side on its merits, and convince others of your accuracy. I have little respect for those who throw a tantrum whenever their opponents beat them, particularly as their opponents apparently have more popular support for their positions.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Pch101, I don’t know who you are or where you came from (I don’t recall seeing you here very much, but that could just be me), but I applaud your defense of democracy. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        By your statement that “the ‘general welfare’ is as about as broad as we wish it to be” you are stating that there are no Constitutional limits on the Federal government. This is why I asked about the 10th Amendment. If there are no limits on the Federal government due to the general welfare and other clauses, then the 10th Amendment is null and void – and so is the Constitutional philosophy of limited government.

        BTW, I am not trying to convince you that I am right. I hope Democrats continue their smug contempt for limited government because in the marketplace of ideas you’ll continue to get your hat handed to you just like you did last November.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        This is why I asked about the 10th Amendment.

        You are misinterpreting the 10th Amendment. It doesn’t say what you think it does.

        Article 1, Section 8 gives Congress the authority to provide for the “general welfare” for the nation as a whole. The rest of the authority goes to the States and the people.

        Whether the Congress has the right to deal with education is subject to presidential veto and the rulings of the federal court. And as noted, the president has the right under Article 2 to form a cabinet, the details of which are not specified in the Constitution.

        If you don’t like government spending, that’s fine. But don’t start prattling on about things being illegal or unconstitutional unless you have a basis for doing so. The fact that you didn’t know that you were attributing an executive right to the Congress suggests to me that you don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PCH101, can you list for me one area that in your opinion the Constitution prevents the Federal Government from exerting its power over and is solely the purview of the states and the basis of that prohibition? BTW, that would also be a good question for anyone running for Congress or the Presidency.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Can you list for me one area that in your opinion the Constitution prevents the Federal Government from exerting its power over and is solely the purview of the states and the basis of that prohibition?

        We have a Constitution.

        It has 27 amendments.

        We have courts that have spent over 200 years interpreting those documents, and that have established a body of case law.

        We have a legislature that has passed a variety of laws that one would hope are constitutional.

        Read those. That’s where you’ll find the answer.

        I don’t rely on misinterpretations of one section of one article of the Constitution and a single amendment out of 27 to find my answers. I realize that this places me into a tiny minority on the internet, but so be it.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        PCH, unfortunately you’ve got 200+ years of abuse of the document on your side. I’ve got original intent on mine, my side is right and will keep the country from the tyranny that is the inevitable outcome if your side is allowed to win. You won’t, every day you overrach more and one day you will go too far. Do you honestly think that the Founding Fathers of this country would have approved the government we have now? They revolted against less than what we have how. You will lose.

        I do agree with one thing though, there are more mooches who vote for whomever gives them more stuff, so it’s hard to get them to understand that their way is destroying the country. Remember Thatcher, socialists eventually run out of other peoples’ money. Your totalitarian friends will lose.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @MikeAR, if you KNOW you are right, regardless of anything anyone can say to you, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to convince you otherwise. So debate is fruitless …

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        unfortunately you’ve got 200+ years of abuse of the document on your side.

        I get it. You’re a sore loser. Instead of using your First Amendment rights to convince others of the superiority of your position and changing minds, you instead piss and whine like a spoiled kid who hates not getting his way.

        This nation has 300 million people in it. Some of them — OK, a whole lot of them — don’t agree with you, and have elected officials who don’t get agree with you. If you can’t provide a compelling story to get them to come around to your views, then that’s strictly your problem. Take some personal responsibility, rather than pointing fingers at everyone else for your failure to convince them.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PCH101, I asked for one example and you gave me more smug condescension – which answered my question.

        But we have gotten way off the topic of higher gas taxes. I have not read anything by anyone in this discussion that details what the cost a higher gas will have on the economy, makes a compelling argument that the necessary funds for road repair can’t be found in a budget that has grown a trillion dollars in two years, or that a less regressive tax such as the income tax isn’t a better source of revenues. And even if all those concerns were answered, the fact remains that increasing taxes (particularly gas taxes) in a recession is the best possible way to lose an election. So we might as well be discussing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        He is good at smugness, I will agree. But smugness helps when you are defending the indefensible. And I won’t change my mind because I am right. Why should I have to change. It would be unwise to push a gas tax too much now but I do encourage the progressives among us to keep it up. It just shows how out of touch and greedy they are for other peoples’ money. If they get what they want the thing is that PCH and the rest will still be serfs like the rest of us, they will have just wemt willingly, easgerly into serfdom.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I asked for one example and you gave me more smug condescension – which answered my question.

        I suppose that as part of your quest to rewrite the Constitution here on the internet that you missed a tiny legal concept called “stare decisis”. That’s a fancy Latin term for respecting precedent.

        Our system has two centuries of precedent built into it. If you want to be a good American, then you need to respect that precedent. As a nation of laws, that’s what we are supposed to do.

        Instead, you bitch and whine every time that you don’t get your way, while ignoring all of the precedents in the system that we’re all supposed to respect, including those that we dislike.

        Your thought process, which consists of spewing out echo chamber rhetoric and ignoring 200 years of legal precedent, is a slap in the face to the founding principles of the country. If you don’t like something, then do what an American is supposed to do — define the problem, convince others that you are correct, and change it. If you are incapable of that, then grow up until you can (and try reading the Constitution for a change, so that you understand the difference between Congressional authority and the President’s cabinet.)

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PCH101 – still didn’t answer my question, but that’s ok. You know you want to say that the Constitution is irrelevant to today’s world and merely a quaint historical curiosity. You know you are dying to argue that there are no limits on government and that states have no rights or power other than what the federal government has yet to take away. You know that a small group of highly educated people can make better decisions about how average Americans should live their lives or spend their money. C’mon – go ahead, you’ll feel better.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        still didn’t answer my question

        I answered it directly. But sadly, you are so ignorant of this Constitution that you keep talking about that you didn’t understand the answer.

        It is not my job to overturn 200 years worth of court decisions and legitimate law simply because I have a political viewpoint. As an American, I am supposed to respect precedent.

        You have no respect for precedent. What you do have are a bunch of opinions, and you couldn’t really care less whether or not they’re unconstitutional, just so long as you get your way or get to feel like a victim when you don’t.

        The stuff that you like to believe is “unconstitutional” is perfectly legitimate and within the law. You simply want to pretend that it’s unconstitutional because you don’t have a decent argument to defend your views. If you want to get your way, then convince people that you should, rather than pretend that you’re entitled but are being robbed.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Rob, Pch101 revealed his view of the limit of federal power and existence of state autonomy in a different thread. Were the federal government to invoke the commerce clause to dismantle CARB, Pch101 would have a problem with that. There can never be enough regulatory hindrances to free enterprise, apparently. It seems to me that his insistence that legislative action by the judicial branch has superseded the text of the Constitution tells me all I need to know about his respect for freedom and his intellectual integrity. The end always justifies the means for totalitarians.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Were the federal government to invoke the commerce clause to dismantle CARB, Pch101 would have a problem with that.

        If you or someone else has a cogent argument that CARB violates the commerce clause, then present it. Nobody is stopping you.

        You guys are big on accusations, but a bit short on factual arguments. I suppose that it’s easier to make bogus claims about your opponents than it is to present a reasonable viewpoint

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The irony here is that your posts are full of references to ‘precedents and decisions’ that you believe obviate the text of the Constitution, but I’ve yet to see you provide the ones that support your dictatorial agenda. Certainly, there are bad precedents. Ultimately, the underlying Constitutional articles and ammendments need to be read to determine whether or not the courts have acted properly. Judicial review was created from whole cloth by the Marbury v. Madison non-decision, so the Judiciary has long been attempting to achieve supremacy over our representative form of government. That doesn’t mean that the commerce clause wasn’t intended to prevent state governments from unreasonably hindring interstate commerce, which is CARB’s modus operandi.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob

        PCH101, I asked for one area where the 10th Amendment is still relevant and you still haven’t given one. Increasingly, Stare Decisis is the rallying cry of liberals who want the Supreme Court to to use it as a one way ratchet for ever larger and more intrusive government. The Supreme Court is fallible and when it makes a mistake, future courts should correct the error when given the opportunity. Or maybe you think that Brown vs. The Board of Education was the wrong call and the Supreme Court should have relied on Stare Decisis and maintained the precedent set by Plessy vs. Ferguson.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        CJ, Rob, you guys forget that PCH doesn’t care about law or precedent or anything else. All that matters is that his agenda goes forward. He can twist a word here and there but the fact is that the founders of this country, the men who wrote the Constitution would be appalled at what has happened since 1860, especially the last 80 years. His kind can’t give examples, they dream about the destruction of the Constitution while thye use it as a cover for their agenda.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      So how does that compare to the spending of the average man? My experience is that i waste plenty of money.

      ps. Waste as in spending more money than was necessary not as in spending on pleasure

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Apples to orages, not a valid question. We are not governments, they, since they enforce laws and such, should be held to a much higher standard and any individual.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Why, it is my own money so you expect better results but i waste plenty.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        There is a considerable difference between you spending your own money, and any level of government spending money it collects through taxes. We expect the latter to be more careful, since it is not spending its OWN money. You are free to do whatever you want with your money, including using it as kindling for fires, if that is your choice.

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    IMHO the more we pay the more our politicians will steal. Call me when they cut their salaries and pensions by 50% and pay for their own health care. Most politicians/public employes treat our tax dolllars like they hit the lottery. If they’re are trying to embezzle the money they’re padding their own or the families pension.

    In Massachusetts there are weekly stories on how taxpayer money is being stolen/mismanaged by those in public positions.

    I have no confidence that our local/state/federal politicians can mangage other peoples money.

    Oh and in MA the last three House Speakers have been conivicted of taking bribes, etc.

    Until the moral compass of our public officials changes, the “Think of the Children” cry falls on death ears.

    http://www.wbur.org/2011/06/22/greg-sullivan

  • avatar
    vvk

    The people arguing against gas taxes obviously drive 6000 lb trucks and SUVs. People arguing for gas taxes drive normal cars and don’t want to be killed by people driving 6000 lb trucks and SUVs.

    The chart highlights the huge disconnect between the US and Europe. Similar disconnects exist in almost every other aspect of society. Healthcare, social protection, education, culture, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      And thank God for that.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      vvk, I don’t drive a truck or a SUV – I just don’t want the government to do anything that will stall our weak economic recovery and raising the price of gas will certainly kill it. The President understands that cheaper gas is needed to get our economy going again which is why he released oil from the strategic petroleum reserves this week.

      As far as Europe goes, as Margaret Thatcher once said “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” The citizens of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are discovering that “eventually” is finally here. The Germans are discovering that they are the “other people.”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The people arguing against gas taxes obviously drive 6000 lb trucks and SUVs. People arguing for gas taxes drive normal cars and don’t want to be killed by people driving 6000 lb trucks and SUVs.

      That’s more of a “correlation is not causation” issue. People who don’t like to pay taxes on principle are more likely buy huge trucks, vote Republican, etc, etc. It’s a belief ecosystem, but there’s not a direct string of logic from one to the other, and there’s an awful lot of in-built cognitive dissonance in it, or any other, similar ecosystem.

      Example: want to make both leftists and rightists squirm a little? Ask them to rationalize their positions on abortion and capital punishment.

      You’re right about the America/Europe disconnect, though. There’s a lot of reasons for this, some ethically neutral (like historical urban planning), some the result of cultural convention. Tax is a very interesting thing: Americans actually have no real issues with rendering unto Caesar, they just prefer to render via proxy to a zillion little Caesars, rather than (more efficiently) to one.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        its true!

        Reducing government is not reducing governance – if government was in charge of Issue A and the government is stripped of this responsibility, the governance is still there. Instead, now a private entity that is beholden to its bottom line is in charge of the governance, instead of the government beholden to its people

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I think most people will, given a little thinking, understand that whatever kind of political system you are a part of (only considering those that have existed, or excist right now) people in powerful positions, will always in the end try as hard as they can to remain in that position, and use it to their own benefit.
    be it the communist party, the congress, the senate, the Norwegian government, everywhere. that offcourse goes for any sort of hierarchy, including Ford, GM, Nasa, a gas station in f**ing Zimbabwe for that matter. As we are herd animals, and everyone sadly aint created equal, it’s something we just have to accept.
    As a closet-anarchist I never will , but at least I know I’m wrong….

  • avatar
    stickmaster

    Under normal circumstances I would support a gas tax, but I have zero confidence in our government, so I don’t.

    There’s the rub, isn’t it? In order for something like this to work, you need a functioning government and an engaged, intelligent citizenry, and we have neither.

    The government wouldn’t use the revenues for anything worthwhile, it would just go to more war and welfare.

  • avatar
    Neb

    One thing I have learned from this thread: the only thing conservative types hate more then CAFE is replacing CAFE with something that uses market forces, innovation, and reliance on an individual’s good judgement to accomplish a goal that everyone benefits from.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      «to accomplish a goal that everyone benefits from.»

      You know, if it benefits everyone, why don’t you yourself start paying Euro-prices at the pump? You tally up your gas bill, treble it, and send it as a check to the Treasury.

      The Treasury does accept such donations, you know. You think you will benefit, and certainly it will benefit everyone else.

      Go at it champ!

  • avatar
    JJ

    Hmm…I’m a bit late to the party I see.

    “One commonly-cited “hidden cost” of cheap gasoline is the US’s huge overseas military presence. Though the link between America’s military adventures and our low price of gas isn’t always obvious, our intervention in Libya shows how expensive interventions are often undertaken out of fear of a gas price shock. Since the cost of military action isn’t built into the price of gas, this amounts to a hidden cost.”

    I don’t really buy into that. If you consider the big picture I doubt the global oil price would be much different (long term) if it weren’t for the US’ military action in the middle-east. Sure, interventions in Iraq and Libya have a short term influence on the oil price (for reasons that have IMO very little to do with real supply-demand considerations but just instability anxiety). Unless you would actually argue that OPEC keeps its prices lower than they potentially could for fear of US military repercussions (albeit under false pretenses of course), I don’t see it.

    As for this one: “Going back to the Highway Trust Fund, we find that the only alternative to an increase in the tax itself is the “Vehicle Miles Traveled” tax, a scheme that would require the government to track every single vehicle in the United States and tax it based on the miles traveled.”

    Even in socialist Holland (let’s just call it what it is), this plan has been crashing and slowly burning for 2 decades now. Our current government (finally a bit less leftwing than before) decided to ultimately bin the whole idea after said 2 decades of missed deadlines and over a billion in research costs. And that’s inspite there being an extra incentive to implement this idea over just raising gas taxes (even more) here in the Netherlands, because it’s a small country, which means lots of people live fairly close to the borders with Belgium and Germany and raising the gas tax by a substantial amount would result in people avoiding the tax by filling up their cars abroad, resulting in missed tax revenue as well as job losses at domestic gas stations.

    The latter would probably be far less of an issue in the US (but still painful for those gas station owners near Canada or Mexico of course), but I can’t imagine a ‘vehicle miles travelled tax’ happening in the US…

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      Myself wrote;

      “I don’t really buy into that. If you consider the big picture I doubt the global oil price would be much different (long term) if it weren’t for the US’ military action in the middle-east.”

      Not the best sentence ever, unfortunately edit didn’t work out…Anyway, point is I don’t think the long term oil price has all that much to do with the US military actions in some of the middle-eastern countries.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The irony here is that your posts are full of references to ‘precedents and decisions’ that you believe obviate the text of the Constitution, but I’ve yet to see you provide the ones that support your dictatorial agenda.

    Again, you’re big on rhetoric, but short on cogent arguments.

    The right of the president to select his cabinet is pretty clear. Not only is it in Article 2, but after 200 years, there hasn’t been a case that said that he can’t have an education secretary. I don’t know how much more precedent that you want, but it certainly isn’t in Rob’s court.

    I guess that your arguments must be pretty weak, since you spend most of your time name calling instead of offering good ideas. You must devote as much time as you do shouting at others in order to hide your embarrassment.

    Again, here’s an awesome idea — if you want to create change, make a good argument for why things should be changed your way. If you can’t make such an argument, then hold your tongue until you can come up with one, then present it as well as you can.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    To those in favor of the gas tax, there is something to understand about those of us who disagree with you. We believe the government could screw up a free lunch and typically does.

    I admire your faith and hope and belief that the government, if infused with more money, will somehow act differently than how it has so far. That, like a responsible, benevolent individual, will do what it says it will do and spend the money as intended. Sadly, there is no evidence that I am aware of to support this belief. Look at social security (the “trust fund”), border enforcement, failed ‘drug war’, failed bi-lingual education, declining test scores in schools, inaccurate numbers being presented for unemployment numbers, poor oversight of Freddie and Fannie that served to exacerbate the meltdown and recession we’re still experiencing, etc, etc. etc.

    I would be for a tax increase if there was a guarantee the money couldn’t be squandered. Short of that, it’s a ‘no’ from me.

    With government, there is no accountability. Unless you take pictures of your johnson and send out a blast text. Or you do a two step in a bathroom stall at an airport. Or wear diapers and pay for hookers. Or just pay for hookers.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    Hi MikeAR,

    Just bought the property upwind of yours! My new furnace is being delivered next week that belches out black smoke and emits a strong sewage odor. Going to put the smokestack right next to your property line. Glad I was able to choose this furnace – it would be horrible if the government controlled furnace emissions and I wasn’t able to get the model that belched smoke and sewage fumes. But I live in a consumer paradise of freedom and that choice is the choice of a free society. Hope you don’t mind!

    XXX000,

    Your new neighbor.

  • avatar
    mburm201

    One point of information. The 35W bridge collapse was determined to be due to an original design defect when the bridge was built in 1964. That original design defect (inadequate gusset plates) combined with the weight of additional concrete road surface material and construction equipment doing maintenance, caused the collapse. There was no finding that additional maintenance would have prevented the collapse.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Of course, this isn’t the end of the story. For years now, existing highway bridges that were built for, say, four lanes with shoulders on either side have had those breakdown lanes removed and an additional driving lane added, making it now a five-lane bridge.

      The I-71/75 double-decker bridge here in Cincinnati that spans the Ohio River into Kentucky originally had three lanes each, with breakdown lanes. Years ago, those lanes were removed and now the bridge has four traffic lanes with no breakdown lanes, as one unfortunate man found out last week when someone rear-ended a guy who stopped behind him to help, as the man’s car ran out of gas, knocking him over the wall into the river. Dead.

      Also, years ago, the I-70 bridge outside St. Louis across the Missouri River into St. Charles – the same thing. Originally a two-lane-each-way with shoulders structure, when the highway was expanded, a second, wider bridge was built to handle eastbound traffic. Five lanes. The old westbound structure was also made into five lanes, but no room for any shoulders.

      Things like this are being done all over, adding excess weight to structures that were not designed to carry or bear, let alone reducing the safety factor of the motorist.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    As a Canadian, I can’t comment on the legitimacy of US taxes, etc.
    However, the US interstate system is truly amazing. Just think – if you have a car with a big enough fuel tank and you had a big enough bladder, you could drive coast-to-coast or border-to-border virtually non-stop. Safely. Smoothly. Quickly.
    Remarkable.
    All in all, we (Canada, at least) have it pretty good. Do I pay too much tax? Sure. Am I overworked and underpaid ? Sure.
    But safe streets, clean water, good education, clean environment, secure retirement, etc etc, are worth something as well.
    So have a nice day, and a great 4th of July holiday (July 1st up here).

  • avatar
    Neil

    When I was doing this sort of analysis for the industry, I came up with a solution like Lutz’. My recommendation was that we raise the gas tax by a penny a month (can you imagine the congestion if it went up 25c in one day!–heck, maybe have it increase .25c per week).
    Planning is absolutely necessary for choices to be made with respect to gas use. If you KNOW that your gas will cost more next year then you will plan accordingly. Right now, we are blindfolded and left to wander in the free market where we are hit by external factors that we cannot predict. I don’t mind being hit, but at least let me know when and where I will be hit.
    Frankly, I don’t care where the money goes from the tax. Better/safer roads and creating right turn lanes/easing congestion points all seem consistent with cutting gas use. The most important thing is giving owners a clear an irrevocable incentive to make investments into vehicles that use less gas than they otherwise would buy. Outside of fixing low prices, one couldn’t come up with a worse system for that than what we have right now.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    IF the states made highway maintenance a slightly higher priority than, say, free benefits for voters maybe the roads would be in better shape.

    Not to many pols get reelected because a few bridges get replaced. Dole out money for community centers, free health care, food stamps, WIC, and a host of other targeted social programs and you too can spend your life in office.

    Most people don’t notice how higher energy costs drives up everything around them. But hey, that’s a nice bridge on that toll road, isn’t it?


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