Friday, May 02, 2008

The Gas Tax conundrum

We need the gas tax. It provides money to keep the roads we drive on going, and in a small way, provides a disincentive to drive - which, to be honest, hasn't been that great of a disincentive.

Now, two potential Presidential candidates propose having a gas tax vacation - something that pretty much every expert agrees is a horrible, horrible idea - but it does have a certain appeal with the populace.

And the conundrum is - how do you tell people who are smarting from $3.50 a gallon for gas that removing $0.18 per gallon for six months isn't a good idea?

This is the true test of the "wisdom" of the American people. Sure - you could remove the gas tax for 4-6 months, remove the billions from the highway construction fun. Now we either have to borrow *more* money to pay for that, or tell 300,000 construction workers "Sorry - people need that $20 they'd save on gas over the summer more than you."

Oh, but wait - Senator Clinton has a great idea - just put a tax on the oil companies! That'll balance that out - and I'm sure with congress and the Senate as its composed will pass that idea, and President Bush totally *won't* veto it!

So - what can we do? Mainly - grit it out for the short term. If Bush wanted to release the oil reserves, that would help on prices - and maybe generate some income for the federal government.

The best thing is really a long term approach: invest heavily in public transportation, jack up fuel efficiency and promote plug-in hybrids, and put in transportation infrastructure like light rail so people in the suburbs can cheaply get to their work places (kind of like what Salt Lake City did). During this time, you put people at work (helping to stimulate the economy), and long term you have systems that will save gas and money. Throw in some alternative energy sources, or build nuclear plants, and by the time those are in, those plug-in hybrids will be the rage, and people can charge off of the public grid instead of the gas pump less often.

But a "gas tax holiday"? Like sending a cancer patient to Disney Land in place of giving them chemotherapy. Sure, they'll fell better - but after the rides are over, they're still dying of cancer.

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