Monday, 05 July 2010


“Cheap” gas, part 2

Propaganda? What propaganda?  Dept

In the latest installment of its you’re-not-paying-enough-taxes campaign, Gannett’s July 2-5 USA Today carried a front-page article headlined “Gas taxes give us a break at the pump,” and (in smaller letters) “Half the 1975 cost, factoring inflation.”[1]

Let’s explore:
When drivers hit the road in large numbers for the Fourth of July holiday, they will have something extra to celebrate - the lowest gasoline taxes since the early days of the automobile.
Wait a minute!  Somebody actually cut taxes while I wasn’t looking?  How come I don’t know about this?
Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation’s roads - just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven...  That’s a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.
Oh, so the taxes haven’t changed any, it’s inflation making them worth less.  I see...
Another measure of the trend: Americans spent just 46 cents on gas taxes for every $100 of income in the first quarter of 2010...
Ahem.  What’s special about the “first quarter of 2010,” class?  (Hint)
By comparison, Americans spent $1.18 in 1970 in gas taxes out of every
slightly less ravaged by inflation
$100 earned...
So?  There’s a lot of stuff that costs less today than it did in the 70s. I guess this is another case of “You selfish Americans, you.  You’re not paying what we think should be your share.  Give us another 72 cents, and make it snappy!”
...Tax collections are down because today’s vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas
And isn’t this exactly what the elitists have been yammering about since the 60s?  And when the yammering didn’t work fast enough, what did they do?  They convinced congress to make “gas-guzzlers” illegal.  Hey, remember “C.A.F.E.”?
cutting tax collections while increasing wear and tear on highways.
Unstated message:  If you selfish Americans were’t doing all that driving, the roads wouldn’t be falling apart.  You should be riding buses- or bicycles!  (As if driving your lighter, more fuel-efficient car a bit farther is going to make that much difference.)
Drivers are on the track to spend
i.e., PAY
$55.7 billion on federal, state, and local gas taxes in 2010’s first quarter...
(there’s that “first quarter of 2010,” again)
...down from $68.5 billion in 2000 after adjusting for inflation
(But not adjusting for the difference between the pre-9/11 economy and 2010’s funemployment.)
The American Trucking Association, motorist club AAA and others favor higher gas taxes to reduce congestion and a backlog of road repairs.
So might I, if I could be sure that’s what the money would be used for.  But unfortunately...
“The money you pay at the pump doesn’t always find its way to potholes,” says gas tax opponent Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.
Exactly.  And isn’t it interesting that Sepp’s quote is the article’s only allusion to the Democrats’ continual efforts to shift gas tax revenues from road construction and repair to more “progressive” (and union-employing) mass-transit projects?  I wonder why...?  Guess there just wasn’t enough room.
The nation’s roads are increasingly financed by other taxes and borrowing.
Personally, I view roads as a fundamental part of the infrastructure, something we should be spending tax money on.  (Better spent on roads than on the Department of Education.)  And if you’re saying roads should “pay for themselves,” what about mass transit?
The federal stimulus plan set aside $26.7 billion for roads...
(“See, the stimulus DID work!” Right.)

So let’s summarize.  The headline is a lie: There’s no “gas tax break” this summer.  Whatever “break” we get comes from operating more efficient- and more expensive- cars[2] and inflation.  And the public should feel guilty because we resist road tax increases and suspect politicians will use them for all kinds of stuff besides, em, fixing the roads.  Sorry.

Elsewhere, related:
The Register:  RAC prof:  Road charges can end the ripoff of motorists
(Here’s yet another case where the U.K. is “ahead” of us:  British road users pay £46 billion each year in fuel duty and road tax, of which no more than a third is actually spent on roads.  This expert proposes replacing all present taxes with a toll system with the proceeds firewalled from sticky government fingers.  Fat chance.)
[1]  article by Dennis Cauchon, appeared: USA Today, July 2-5, 2010, page 1.  Not found online, but I have a scan.

[2]   Unless your 1970 car was a VW bug and your 2010 “car” is a SUV - but that’s your own fault, isn’t it, you evil polluter you!

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