NYT's Thomas L. Friedman: Gas Tax is a Win Win Win Win Win

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Yup, it’s deja vu all over again, as New York Times star columnist and flat earther Thomas L. Friedman once again echoes the Gray Lady’s conviction that a federal gas tax is a good thing. No surprise there. In case you didn’t realize it, Friedman has no problem telling people what to do with their national economies. In fact, it’s clear he feels what was once called noblesse oblige. “I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of ways to retool America around clean-power technologies without a price signal — i.e., a tax — and there are no effective ones. (Toughening energy-effiency [sic] regulations alone won’t do it.) Without a higher gas tax or carbon tax, Obama will lack the leverage to drive critical pieces of his foreign and domestic agendas.” You want him to tax that gas. You need him to tax that gas. “Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11. The public is ready to be mobilized. Obama is coming in with enormous popularity. This is his best window of opportunity to impose a gas tax. And he could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month.” And then Tom trots out the “H” word, and you just know someone somewhere is gonna pay.

“It makes no sense for Congress to pump $13.4 billion into bailing out Detroit — and demand that the auto companies use this cash to make more fuel-efficient cars — and then do nothing to shape consumer behavior with a gas tax so more Americans will want to buy those cars. As long as gas is cheap, people will go out and buy used S.U.V.’s and Hummers.”

OH NO! NOT THAT! NOT A HUMMER! Anyway, a gas tax is the answer to, well, everything.

“A gas tax reduces gasoline demand and keeps dollars in America, dries up funding for terrorists and reduces the clout of Iran and Russia at a time when Obama will be looking for greater leverage against petro-dictatorships. It reduces our current account deficit, which strengthens the dollar. It reduces U.S. carbon emissions driving climate change, which means more global respect for America. And it increases the incentives for U.S. innovation on clean cars and clean-tech.

“Which one of these things wouldn’t we want? A gasoline tax ‘is not just win-win; it’s win, win, win, win, win,’ says the Johns Hopkins author and foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”

Robert Farago
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  • Fortension Fortension on Dec 29, 2008

    Ug. How many of you have twenty plus years of experience at your difficult, highly-skilled job, only to have people come in off the street and tell you that you're doing your job wrong and you're stupid. Economists get it all the time. Almost no one is suggesting we raise taxes (there are a few nut jobs that are suggesting we balance the budget this year). What is being discussed is how we generate our tax revenue. We can keep giving away large amounts of money to unfriendly (at best) countries, keep us unprepared for when the price spikes again, and get our tax revenue from discouraging work and investment. Or, we can start generating more tax revenue from those people that want to financially support those unfriendly countries and let people that work and save in the US keep more of their money. @ Landcrusher: By definition, taxes are regressive, proportional or progressive, and proportional taxes are pretty much impossible to engineer. All the research done on gas taxes show that they are regressive. It doesn't make for a good debate.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Dec 30, 2008

    fortension, There are plenty of professions that get armchaired all the time. Given the expression, I guess the generals and quarterbacks get to claim the worst case positions. The problem economists have is two fold. First, you all agree on 80% of things, but you always talk about the other 20%. I can usually find an economist to disagree with another economist. Second, you are pretty much like the meteorologists only your subject reads your prognostications and then goes about screwing them up. I don't think the rest of us (especially on the fiscally conservative/libertarian side) would agree on the definition used for regressive if your statement about studies is correct. Perhaps you could enlighten us on your working definition of regressive. Also, it may help to tell us why a flat tax isn't proportional, and a sales tax isn't proportional.

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
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  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
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