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Driving Mr. Government

March 25, 2011

Ah, Springtime.  It’s the season where the government starts really worrying about its tax revenues and then comes up with even new ways to tax the middle class and poor. Here’s the report from The Hill.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released a report that said taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short.

They call it VMT for vehicle miles traveled.  There are actually some transportation areas, like trucking, that pay weight-mile taxes now, which are similar.  Essentially, you’re now responsible for the miles you drive, and you get to report them to the government so they can helpfully remove your money.  Note that this is a NEW tax, not a replacement for current transportation taxes.

But hey, on that note… why aren’t the taxes that we already charge on transportation working?  I mean, the government (in aggregate) generally reaps more in taxes on gasoline than a typical oil profit reaps in profit on the same amount.  So it’s already sucking in a bunch of money.  Why change?

“Do we do gas tax?” [Senator Kent] Conrad asked. “Do we move to some kind of an assessment that is based on how many miles vehicles go, so that we capture revenue from those who are going to be using the roads who aren’t going to be paying any gas tax, or very little, with hybrids and electric cars?”

Ah, so there you go.  We’re using tax subsidies and government progams to shove hybrid cars and electic vehicles onto the road, so now we need to raise taxes because they’re not contributing enough of their own to the road maintenance kitty.  The funniest thing is that most of the same government flunkies that are pushing so hard for hybrids will now blame them for the road problems.

Just a quick question… aren’t we jacking tons of the stimulus into roads and transportation already?  Why do we need to raise more money to fix the roads that need fixing?  Oh, that’s right.  We didn’t spend stimulus dollars on transport projects that we needed to do.  We spent the money on stuff that we didn’t need to do and fell off the list.  So we spent on unnecessary things, and now we’re trying to find more money to spend on semi-necessary things.

Ed Morrissey:

This is the reason we use the gasoline tax for transportation costs.  It doesn’t require the government to track the movements of citizens on a moment-to-moment basis, and it doesn’t require any record-keeping for either the drivers or the government bureau.  It’s a point-of-sale transaction that proceeds transparently and relieves the taxpayer of a lump-sum burden at the end of the year.

The problem with the federal budget isn’t a lack of resources.  It’s a lack of will to use those resources wisely.  The government doesn’t need to track the movements of more than 300 million people to squeeze more revenue out of them — it needs to spend less of their money in the first place.

When does this end, I wonder?  Do people ever bother to look at the amount of their money that goes to funding the government and finally rebel at the cost?  Does the middle class that drives farther than others suddenly realize that they’re being asked to shoulder even more of the burden of a profligate government?  Wait, forget that.  When do we, as taxpayers of any income level, realize that the government won’t stop until they get all of what we earn?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2011 6:08 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this. I am not at all certain that this system could even be built for the $556 billion shortfall they’re trying to cover. In other words, by the time every single one of the roughly 270,000 passenger vehicles on the road is equipped, and all of the road infrastructure on tens of thousands of miles of highway (minimum) and all the staffing and reporting and management and enforcement and oversight and so on … they’ll be twice as far in the hole as now.

    Of course, all of this is being driven by the jacking up of the budget in the last two years, and the TREMENDOUS increase in the budget for this proposed by Obama.

    The last two years have been short by ten to fifteen billion. They want to jump this up to a hundred billion a year ($556 billion in six years).

    But the “highway maintenance” department would grow by a multiple just handling this system — before any actual highway work is done.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

    • March 27, 2011 6:17 pm

      Whoops! I didn’t type out the whole number — it’s 270,000,000 vehicles. If the installation of the device, and the infrastructure associated with it, is about $2k per pop, that’s $540 billion right there. So this new wonderous tax revenue scheme, along with the structure to support it and the great increase in budget that Obama wants, would put us a trillion dollars in the hole.

      What we get for it, of course, is a massive new intrusion into our private lives, and a new tax on the poor and middle class. What a deal!

      What is motivating this? The report makes it clear: the “fundamental” purpose is the punish people for using the highways — to increase their costs so that they would “provide a strong incentive for people to avoid overusing highways—that is, to forgo trips for which the costs to themselves and others exceed the benefits.”

      They want to include — and it specifically says this — the greenhouse gas cost. A new hidden tax in the use of highways, because Cap and Trade was deCapitated.

      ===|==============/ Level Head

  2. OldSalt5 permalink
    March 27, 2011 4:33 am

    Put a mileage tax on private jets and yachts. Pols like John Kerry who docked his 7,000,000 yacht in Rhode Island to avoid Mass. taxes. Claire McCaskill, who was caught avoiding taxes ($287,000!), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) who uses her hedge fund boyfriends plane to fly back and forth to their mansion in the Virgin Island, and these are the ones we know about! AND, let them go on ObamaCare.

  3. March 25, 2011 2:13 pm

    The electronic-odometer-based VMT has one tremendous advantage over the gasoline tax: It will require a much larger bureaucracy to set up and create records for, track and enter data for, and enforce the collection of revenue and prosecute for failure.

    It essentially is a new IRS-sized effort to be added (to the IRS) as well as lots of hidden cost mechanisms, and thus will take care of the neediest class of citizens of all — government union workers.

    The fact that it is a regressive tax aimed at the middle class and poor doesn’t faze these folks. It’s More Money and More Bureaucracy, thus More Power.

    We need to put an end to this sort of thinking process — and publicizing it will help. So, indeed, “THANK YOU for posting this!” ];-)

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  4. March 25, 2011 2:11 pm

    Ah, Steve the Conservative Spammer has been here. I wonder if he actually reads any of the posts in question before leaving his identically worded comment and advertisement link behind. It’s unfortunate; he can have something reasonable to say, but the method he chooses for advertising his site is pathetic.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

    • March 27, 2011 4:00 pm

      Huh. I wondered if it was just me that saw that tendency….glad we’re not the only ones scratching our head thinking “Huh?!? um, thanks?!? um, huh?!?”

  5. Steve permalink
    March 25, 2011 1:10 pm

    THANK YOU for posting this! I always enjoy visiting your blog… keep up the great work!

    Common Cents

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