After noting that one or two of my correspondents were — and I’m sure they were doing it for convenience’s sake — referring to the gasoline tax hike as "Brad’s taxing scheme," or using similar terms, I thought I’d better set the record straight.
I deserve neither the credit nor the blame. In fact, before I embraced the idea, I went through all the objections that y’all raise — disproportionate burden on the working class, cooling effect on the economy, etc. But I believe this is the best, clearest way to:
- Spread the burden of fighting terror among ALL of us; it’s obscene that we’re not asked to do a thing beyond being inconvenienced at airports. (And while I worry about the poor as well, it’s interesting that David Brooks seems to think that raising the gas tax is more progressive than the SCHIP program. He must be correlating SUV ownership to wealth, or something.)
- Cut off funding to some of the worst enemies we have in this world, who are made a little richer
every time we top off the tank.
- Push us toward alternative fuels that are not only strategically smarter, in terms of making us less dependent, but much, much friendlier to this endangered orb. It would do this partly by making gasoline less marketable, but it would also…
- Provide a lucrative new revenue stream to — take your pick — pay for the war, fund our neglected infrastructure, build public transportation (I’ll take light rail, please) and develop better fuels. My pick would be all of the above, if the stream were big enough.
I did not arrive there by myself. I was influenced by an array of other writers, who have hit this theme again and again over the last couple of years.
To answer the question asked by Jimmy Rabbite of prospective band members in "The Commitments," here are my influences, and links to their works:
Robert J. Samuelson
As the economist in the bunch, he presents the idea most credibly, thoroughly and convincingly. If a guy like Samuelson were against the idea, I’d be worried. His being for it gives me confidence in something that I arrive at in a more intuitive manner.
- An Oil Habit America Cannot Break — October 18, 2006 —…Our main energy problem is our huge dependence on imported oil. For years, some remedies have been obvious: Tax oil heavily to spur Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and to drive a bit less, raise sharply the government’s fuel economy standards so those vehicles are available, and allow more oil and gas drilling. In recent years, we’ve done none of these things. It’s doubtful we will anytime soon…
- Greenhouse Guessing — November 10, 2006 — …In rich democracies, policies that might curb greenhouse gases require politicians and the public to act in exceptionally
"enlightened" (read: "unrealistic") ways. They have to accept "pain" now for benefits that won’t materialize for decades, probably after they’re dead. For example, we could adopt a steep gasoline tax and much tougher fuel economy standards for vehicles. In time, that might limit emissions (personally, I favor this on national security grounds). Absent some crisis, politicians usually won’t impose — and the public won’t accept — burdens without corresponding benefits…
- Seven Tough Choices We Will Not Make — January 17, 2007 — …Enact an energy tax equivalent to $2 a gallon on gasoline — introduced over six years, or about 33 cents annually. The purpose: to increase tax revenue and induce Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles….
- Blindness on Biofuels — January 24, 2007 — …The great danger of the biofuels craze is that it will divert us from stronger steps to limit dependence on foreign oil: higher fuel taxes to prod Americans to buy more gasoline-efficient vehicles and tougher federal fuel economy standards to force auto companies to produce them. True, Bush supports tougher — but unspecified — fuel economy standards. But the implied increase above today’s 27.5 miles per gallon for cars is modest, because the administration expects gasoline savings from biofuels to be triple those from higher fuel economy standards….
- A Full Tank of Hypocrisy — May 30, 2007 — …Today’s higher gasoline prices mostly reflect supply and demand. "Holiday travelers ignoring fuel costs," headlined USA Today before the Memorial Day weekend. Gasoline demand is up almost 2 percent from 2006 levels. Meanwhile, gasoline supplies have tightened. More refineries than usual shut this spring for repairs — some outages planned, some not (from accidents or dangerous conditions). In April and May, refineries normally operate well above 90 percent of capacity; in 2007, the operating rate was about 89 percent. Imports also declined for many reasons: higher demand in Europe; refinery problems in Venezuela; more gasoline demand from Nigeria. It’s true that oil companies will reap eye-popping profits from high prices. Still, the logic that steep prices, imposed by the market or by taxes, will encourage energy conservation is irrefutable. At the least, high prices would curb the growth of greenhouse gases and oil imports….
- Prius Politics — July 25, 2007 — …But we’ve got to start somewhere