Ask The Best And Brightest: What Are The Most Important Car-Related Political Issues?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As I noted yesterday, the intersection of automobiles and politics is a difficult area of analysis. In the United States, where motorists don’t face the daily challenges they do in Russia, discussions of politics in an automotive forum too often gets overwhelmed by larger political battles. Before you know it, a conversation about the future of electric cars can turn into a debate on military and foreign policy, and an auto-industry bailout can be justified by virtue of its small size relative to the bank bailout. In short, everything happens within a context, and politics is all about context. TTAC has always waded into political issues based on their relevance to cars, motorists, consumers and the industry, and we’ve held some fascinating explorations of political topics ranging from red-light and speed cameras and foreign oil dependence to anthropogenic climate change, bailouts and pay-per-mile tax schemes. In the interest of providing the right balance of big-picture and street-level issues in our coverage, we’re curious: what car-related political issues fascinate, concern or perplex you most?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
6 of 40 comments
  • TrailerTrash TrailerTrash on Dec 01, 2009

    MORE TAX ON GAS USAGE!??? More!? I can't believe what I am reading above. It’s as if PAYING for your gas wasn't enough! IF you want to use more, you must be taxed! As if giving the government more money as a form of punishment is rational. I know, let's add more tax to everything people want to use more of than their (fair) share. like... Coffee. Beef. Booze. What about a tax on to much sex! You know the cost of medical insurance can be linked to STD. What's a fair share? Who the hell knows...I guess it would be decided by those that use LESS then others. They would be the Holy and Wise. Anything paid for by its listed price isn't enough; I guess...we gotta tax any extra purchases. We gotta add another value to it. And make over indulgence a sin. A taxable sin! Ya, that's it!!! Tax sins! We gotta make people pay for their sins! Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax Tax. Hey, this tax shit is getting easy

  • TrailerTrash TrailerTrash on Dec 01, 2009

    Don't you "pay per mile" now when you pay for your gas? I must be missing something here. When the demand forces up the cost, doesn't paying more make a useage punishment? Isn't that in itself the tax for use? So what's with the bashing of those who drive, not only a lot...but BIG SUV monsters? They pay their punishment in the extra cost for fuel. I am completely exhausted trying to explain the madness of arbitrary added value. Take the toll roads. If you pay your tolls, but use the tollway more than others, are you suddenly going to pay a higher toll? You over used the tollroad, so your tolls will be higher. You paid for your gas, but you filled up more often so you will pay more per gallon...? Isn't that the same irrational thinking?

    • Banger Banger on Dec 01, 2009

      The point isn't to "punish" anyone here. You speak as if you think the idea is to "single out" SUV drivers. That's not the idea at all. The idea behind raising the gas tax is to raise it to a level that pays for roads and the better planning and upkeep thereof. Bear in mind that our national gas tax rate, even when combined with the most expensive state-level gas tax, is far lower than other industrialized western powers'. Presently, gas tax revenues can't keep up with infrastructure needs. If you raise it to meet the need-- and keep those funds dedicated solely for transportation infrastructure improvement-- you'll have the funds to solve a lot of ills with our roads, launch or improve public transit where viable, reduce congestion, plan future roads better, etc. Having said all that, it remains a flat tax. In essence, you're right: You use more gas because you drive a bigger vehicle? Well, then, you pay more of the tax. Your point about "who decides what is a fair share?" is valid. However, if you're referencing my note about trucks paying more than their fair share, above, consider that their taxation is exactly what you're railing against-- they pay more fuel tax (because they use orders of magnitude more fuel,) but they ALSO pay a bevy of state and national taxes just because they're commercial vehicles that are seen to have more impact on needed upkeep of the highways. Why not just raise fuel taxes (because let's be honest, there are far more cars on the road than semis) to make it a true use tax and forego such unfair practices as a way to play "catch-up" because the fuel tax on regular motorists is artificially low compared to road expenses?

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Dec 01, 2009
    The biggest car/transportation issue is the lack of understanding how other people use cars to meet their transportation needs. That's a very salient point, and one missed by the people screaming about "Freedom" on one side and "Conservation" on the other. I'm glad you brought it up: what works for Podunk does not work for Metropolis, and vice versa. Now, that said, Agrestic works for no one except developers and tax gatherers. The real problem isn't so much the car as it is urban planning. We're building communities that don't exactly work for people: they're not walkable, they have no mix of commericial and residential space, they isolate people from their neighbours and they force the worst of transportation systems: gridlock for cars, and ineffective and expensive surface routes for public transit. To get back to your point: people who do urban planning have a hard time with this because mindless right-wingers scream about freedom without considering responsibility and sustainability, and mindless left-wingers see public transport and high-density housing as a panacea because it works in one isolated case. What we really need to do is look at the way small cities that were established before the rise of the car: you had a sizable downtown, small lots (but not always small houses), nothing more than two or three stories, an industrial hub or two but a homogeneous mix of parks, commerce and residential use. There's a need for sustainable development. Yes, this will curtail freedom somewhat: the tax environment and development cash that make Big Box+McMansions work are not going to be there for much longer. It also means that we'll need to stop using public transit as a solution to problems it doesn't work for (it was never meant to blanket a whole community) and acknowledge that you can't just cram poor people into ghettoes (vertical or horizontal) and expect not to have problems. How does this relate to the car? Well, if you want to keep the kind of stable, sustainable society that lets you afford and enjoy a car and it's associated perks, you need to give people a place where they can live, earn a living wage and be secure. Sane urban planning and local, self-sustaining economies nuture a healthy middle class. What we're doing now is trying to ape a viable middle class with credit and artificially low prices, but really we're hollowing it out and replacing it with something that doesn't work at all.
    • TrailerTrash TrailerTrash on Dec 01, 2009

      Very good insights here and I am glad to read these. In fact, the planning of our communities has always been about corruption and money. To ever hear a politician or school official plead their desires for controlled growth is to hear lies. All involved need growth and it doesn't matter how it comes...only the faster the better. It’s all about getting more tax base. And your right...our developments in the United States has been ad hoc, without any care for inter-travel or future environmental impact. There was no way for our children to visit friends in other developments while growing up. To do so would have meant leaving the safety of 30 MPH streets to walk or bike along 55 PMH highways. So in the end, it was all about the car. And still this madness goes on. If not for the God sent recession, the developments would have eaten up another half of the county last year. And none had the ability to connect to another. Dreadful.

  • John_K John_K on Dec 01, 2009

    Meanwhile, ALGore flies around in his private jet and laughs at all the idiots who believe in glowball warming.