Basically, U.S. drivers would rather pay speculators and investors—the people responsible for the higher gas prices about which they endlessly complain—than put more money into a government fund to maintain our highways and infrastructure.
They would rather have an intricate, unfair and fraudulent system called CAFE regulate car mileage standards than let the price of gasoline and the market produce fuel-efficient cars, which would be a better deal for consumers and automakers both.
Now, some are talking about letting the gas tax (18.4 cents per gallon) expire on September 30, which would soon put thousands of rail and highway workers off their jobs, just the kind of stimulus work the country needs, right?
A few nut-case types like Grover Norquist are even proposing that the states administer gas tax funds and pay for their own roads. In a short time, U.S. highways would become like the roads I drive on in Mexico. Imagine how that patchwork system would help the economy.
So, the sensible thing to do would be to raise the gas tax to provide desperately needed infrastructure and road repair, create jobs and give a shot in the arm to the U.S. economy. In June GM’s Dan Akerson proposed raising it a dollar a gallon.
Well, it ain’t gonna happen. Instead, betting is that Congress will extend the present law, even though the current rate hasn’t been changed in 18 years. As we showed here two weeks ago, the U.S. pays far less in gas taxes and overall gas cost than any other developed country.
If you’re going to reduce oil (and gasoline) consumption, there will be a price to pay. But a higher tax, though apparently impossible to achieve now politically, is fairer and will help our staggering economy. Nobody’s talking about lowering other taxes to compensate for a higher tax on gas.
The benefits are obvious: It would discourage unnecessary driving, congestion and accidents. It would give us better cars than the impenetrable and unworkable CAFE standards. It would produce a multiplier effect in job creation and infrastructure improvement. It would give us cleaner air, get us out of the Middle East, etc., etc.
And it is not going to happen, even though polls have suggested that a large majority of people want and will pay for better infrastructure. There’s a good argument for higher gas taxes here. And the New York Times just came out for it.
But the best argument of all comes from looking at the people who oppose it.
Would you be for a higher gas tax if there was a provision to lower your payroll or income tax accordingly?