Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pandering over the Gas Tax

Just before I asked her to join Alterdestiny, Sarah wrote a fantastic post about this ridiculous proposal to suspend the gas tax. She wrote:

Suspending the gas tax, sure, will make gas a few cents cheaper a gallon for the rest of the summer. And hell, I could use that few cents a gallon–it’ll add up.

But it will do NOTHING to alleviate the real problem, which is our dependence on a finite oil supply that largely comes from the Middle East, and it’ll also do nothing to stop the record profits of the oil companies. It’ll just take more money out of the government’s hands to do things that we desperately need it to do.

I could not agree more. This is pandering to the worst degree. Not only is it pointless and will make almost no difference to Americans' pocketbooks, but it is absurdly bad policy. I'm really disappointed in Clinton for supporting the idea. I expect bad ideas from McCain, but it is unacceptable for leading Democrats to support them.

First, how I can trust a candidate to deal with climate change who wants to give people incentives to drive more? I basically can't. On a similar issue, if we are at the point of suspending the gas tax, when we will decide to drill in ANWR, despite the fact that production there is years away and it only has a very small amount of oil? It can't be far off.

Second, as Sarah points out, our nation's infrastructure is falling apart. If anything, we need a higher gas tax to deal with this! Or do we want more bridge collapses like in Minneapolis? While it may seem that our tax money just disappears (and certainly this administration has come with many new and inventive ways to flush our money down the toilet), these taxes are necessary for making sure that our roads and bridges are safe when we drive. Eliminating the gas tax begs the question, where is the money for infrastructure going to come from?

Third, I want to fight for a society that stops talking about "tax burdens" and starts talking about all the good things taxes do for you. Like paying for your children's education, providing you with sewage lines, and making sure your bridges don't collapse when you are driving on them! This kind of rhetoric that Clinton is buying into does not help our nation in the least. It just reinforces the idea that taxes are a burden on Americans.

Besides, if you really want gas prices to go down, strengthen the dollar. But no one is talking about that. Why? Because it makes rich industrialists richer and props up the stock market at the cost of hurting poor Americans through higher gas prices.

Fourth, if this gas tax is suspended, will it ever come back? The answer is probably no. And again, where does the replacement revenue come from? Voters might be marginally happy that their gas goes down by 20 cents. But if the dollar remains weak and gas prices continue to rise, that will be erased quickly. Then, in a few months, the gas tax comes back? And we see a 20 cent jump in a day. You think any politicians are going to allow that to happen? No way.

Finally, this is just pandering. It's McCain and Clinton appealing to the most short-sighted desires of the American people. We don't need pandering, we need leadership. Obama's refusal to support the suspension of the gas tax is a good thing in my book, helping to make me believe that he is the best choice to lead the nation.