I was travelling to the East Coast this week and the trip afforded a few hours to look at the comments on my posts supporting a gas tax. After yahoo! last week, AOL ran my commentary Thursday. You can read it--and the comments here.
Even without doing the math, it is clear most responders are overwhelmingly not in favor. (A couple comments are not even printable due to graphic language.)
Some people suggested that, as a nation, we have a problem with spending and shouldn't raise taxes. A number expressed a general view that government can’t be trusted. Some just (helpfully) suggested I am an idiot.
There were some thoughtful comments as well. There was also a good point about rural/agricultural gas use. Barry raised another point about the perils of fixing a price. And we could also debate when peak oil will occur. Or whether there should even be an EPA. Most comments, however are hard to respond to as they were more of a vent than an alternative proposal.
And I am not dismissing the points being raised. I get ‘em—sort of. (Except the idiot part.)
It is easy to be cynical these days. A look at how the system “works” is discouraging. Somewhere along the way, politicians learned that offering a single voter money for their votes was considered a bribe—and illegal. But when offered to many, it was an entitlement. The only problem was figuring out who to tax to pay the bill. More recently, politicians have gotten even smarter, simply deferring the decision of how to pay for expenses.
It reminds me of this quote:
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship."
Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scottish born lawyer and professor may have penned this a couple hundred years ago. (Or may not, depending on who you ask.)
Is this negative cascade inevitable? I would sure like to think not.
The point in all this is that simply throwing rocks at every proposal means we end up doing nothing. Is doing nothing really an answer? (Bad things ARE around the corner.)
For the record, I dislike the idea of any tax increase as much as anyone.
I am not suggesting that the Deficit Reduction Commission's report makes for fun reading. It contains plenty not to like. But it deserves to be considered and intelligently debated. Two things about the report did impress me. It emphasized a reduction in spending, over any increases in taxes. (Although I would have liked to see it tackle healthcare.)
And it also spread the pain—skewering the fiction that only one group needs to suffer.
These two things seem essential in developing any solution that has a chance of being enacted—and more importantly, working.
So I understand that many people don’t want to see a higher tax on fuel. But a gas tax is a threefer. It is good for the economy, good for the environment and will boost energy security. If you hate the idea, why not propose a better--and realistic alternative.