Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Proof that Big Government Trumps Environmentalism

The true priorities of leftist politicians in California is evident with their proposal to tax cars based on miles driven rather than through the gas tax currently in use. Why? It turns out that increasing revenues is more important than maintaining an incentive for folks to drive fuel efficient vehicles. Amazing. So it isn't about the environment after all? Can't say I'm surprised.

But such an ill-concieved and deeply flawed arangement is beyond even my low expectations for a Democratically controlled state legislature. This proposal promises to be regressive, anti-environment, inflationary, wasteful, and anti-privacy all at the same time. No small accomplishment.

Here's a list of ways in which this is an idiotic idea, which is by no means comprehensive:

A. In the leadup to the 2000 election, Al Gore proposed a $.50 a gallon gas tax to discourage fuel consumption. Not sure I liked the tax, as it would make every product we buy more expensive, but you could certainly see the merit in structuring it this way to encourage fuel economy. Do I need to go through the litany of environmental, economic, and foreign policy reasons why encouraging fuel economy is good for our country? Nah, I'll trust if you're reading this you're smart enough to understand this is a positive. The miles driven tax treats Joe Billionaire's 1/2 mpg Hummer the same as Granny Ethel's 35 mpg Suzuki Sprint. What's the message we are delivering here? Speaking of Joe and Granny Ethel, that leads to:

B. It's regressive. Poorer folks are generally driving smaller vehicles, consuming less fuel. SUVs are the poster vehicles for the new suburban rich, which the lefties hate. Isn't a tax which shifts the burden from the latter onto the former the exact thing the left is always running around so incensed about?

C. Who's going to monitor miles driven? Should the government be keeping track of this? How soon before the government regulates how many miles you can drive? And while we are at it, where you can drive?

D. This monitoring system - How efficient can that be? How many people are going to have to be hired to maintain and enforce this system? How are you going to pay for this new bureaucracy? Does this eliminate the additional revenues raised by the new tax, or do you just tack that money on there as well?

So, with all these problems, I have to ask - assuming there's a revenue shortfall (I'm willing to believe fuel consumption is falling on a per capita basis, so I'll accept that's the case) why not do what the lefties always seem to want to do elsewhere? Raise the existing tax. Seems to me the fuel tax is one of the few taxes that is well conceived and serves the purposes it is designed for well. It's a use tax which falls on the people who benefit from it's revenues, it is structured to encourage behaviors we should be fostering, and it's entirely voluntary how much one contributes.

It figures that one of the few times government has something right, the statists want to come along and destroy it.


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