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Even though the nation's transportation infrastructure is in sore need of more funding just to make repairs, much less upgrades, raising the gasoline tax has been anathema to leaders and most members of both parties. But with the fake fiscal cliff the 24/7 topic of the month, talk of raising the gas tax is getting a little attention. Senior transportation officials aren't pushing for an increase, but they are also not taking it off the table in "negotiations" between Democrats and Republicans. Some stakeholders and other interested parties believe that now may be the time to make a gas-tax hike happen. Others respond pretty much with "in a pig's eye!"

The federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, which means that inflation has eaten 60 percent of its value in the intervening two decades. It now brings in about $32 billion annually. But Washington delivers around $50 billion to states and cities to build and maintain roads and other transportation infrastructure. Many critics say that $50 billion isn't nearly enough. And, indeed, much of our transportation infrastructure is crumbling. Thousands of decaying highway bridges are categorized as substandard. Nonetheless, most congressional conservatives would like to see less money spent, and they sought to make that a reality in the transportation bill that finally passed earlier this year.

The difference between what the gas tax brings in and what gets spent is significant. Last year, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group concluded that more than $600 billion had come from the federal general fund to build and maintain highways.

Over the years, there has been talk about indexing the tax to inflation. Talk that has gone nowhere. Some people have also sought to raise the tax for environmental reasons, something they believe would spur the development of more efficient vehicles or reduce the amount of driving people do and bring the gas tax more in line with other countries, like those in Europe. I've been making the argument since 1981 that adding five cents a year to the gasoline tax would over the long run generate ever-increasing sums for infrastructure upgrades and, if directed effectively, would cover some of the social costs that burning large amounts of fossil fuels exacts on society.

One conundrum, more efficient cars means a reduction in revenue from the gas tax even though the number of miles driven—and the wear and tear on roads—does not diminish.

Foes of raising the tax, those that aren't simply against any tax increase for any reason, argue that the regressive nature of the levy on gasoline—with the poor paying the same amount as the rich—should make any hike off limits. How a higher gas tax would affect people already struggling to make ends meet must definitely be a key consideration. But there are ways to cushion low-income Americans from the impacts of higher gasoline prices. Directing some of the new revenue to the less affluent via a tax rebate or a program like food stamps would ease the burden on those who could least afford it. Of course, the Right would have a conniption over any gas-stamp program.

Among congresspersons not willing to write off an increase entirely are House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Republican of Pennsylvania, and the committee's ranking member Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia. In interviews with Adam Snider and Burgess Everett, neither called for raising the tax, but neither said it shouldn't be raised. Rahall praised Shuster for being open-minded about it.

The former chairman, however, Republican John Mica, said it would be a “a very cold day in Washington, D.C., and hell" before a gas tax increase would happen.

Opposition to an increase is clearly bipartisan. Back in 2009, when Democrats controlled the House, Jim Oberstar of Minnesota was the chairman of the committee. He had hoped a six-year, $450 billion transportation bill, would be passed. But he kept talking about a gas-tax increase. It was made clear to him by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the White House would not support a gas tax increase and presidential support for the bill was withdrawn. Oberstar lost his reelection bid in the GOP sweep in 2010, but he still thinks President Obama made a mistake.

Pete DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat, who chaired the Highways and Transit subcommittee under Oberstar, thinks the former chairman made the mistake:

“I don’t think that would happen,” DeFazio told POLITICO about a gas tax bump. “Remember, Oberstar’s no longer chairman, and that’s because we didn’t pass a bill. And we didn’t pass a bill because it was pulled by the Obama administration. It was pulled by the Obama administration mostly because they were frightened to death of Oberstar continuing talking about a gas tax increase, which I kept telling him not to do.

“And it violates Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on people” who make under $250,000 a year, he said. “I don’t think a gas tax is in the cards. If there’s people above me working on it, then more power to them.”

"Unlikely" thus seems the most generous description for the chances a gas-tax hike will be imposed.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:07 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They'll only consider it... (8+ / 0-)

    ...when at least two incidents like the I35W bridge collapse happen in each state.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:13:51 AM PST

  •  MB - I too have liked the 5 cents per year (11+ / 0-)

    increase for a long time. It's small enough that people wouldn't notice. One other option I liked when gas was much cheaper was to make it a percentage (initially revenue neutral) so that the amount of actual tax revenue would increase as gas prices rose over time.  I do think that significant gas tax rate hikes to even start on a path towards Europe's gas tax levels won't work in the US. They would be politically harmful for the party advocating them.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:19:31 AM PST

    •  People might not notice, but Fox News sure as (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cocinero, Caelian, a2nite, Larsstephens

      Hell will.  

      Good as an idea.  Disastrous as politics.

      "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery these dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

      by Rikon Snow on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:16:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yearly, predictable increases (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, Meteor Blades

      Ideally, I think you'd pass a larger hike, to catch up with inflation.   Call it the Eisenhower Gas Tax - bring it up to 30 cents a gallon (the inflation adjusted equivalent of Eisenhower's Gas Tax).

      Then, as part of the same law, mandate that 2 years after passage of the bill, it goes up by 5 cents + inflation, and then has an annual 5 cent increase + inflation for 20 years.  Afterwards, just inflation.  So, over 22 years, you'd raise the federal gas tax from 18 cents a gallon to 30 cents (on passage of bill) to 1.30 after 22 years, plus any adjustment for inflation.  1.30 a gallon would STILL BE LOWER than what they pay in other countries today, and this is true when you add in an average of 30 cents a gallon for state and local taxes, too.

      •  MP - big first year hike (0+ / 0-)

        makes the prospect of moving this concept through Congress much more difficult.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:01:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think if you're selling a gas tax increase (0+ / 0-)

          Then you're selling the notion that a) it's a good thing and b) we can afford it.  If you're selling that we can afford it, then it's just a question of how much we can afford.  Going to 30 cents would be a 12 cent per gallon increase - I think that's a sale you can make.  

          But obviously you are right, it makes it harder.  

          The other way to go about it, instead of annual increases all at once, would be to do 5 cents a year, but spread out as 1 cent increases over the entire year, every 73 days or whatever.  Then it's imperceptible.  

    •  How about instead of 5 cents a year (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Caelian, akmk, a2nite, fuzzyguy, BYw

      We would pay, instead cut the subsidisies the oil companies get and make them pay their fair share of taxes?  
      If they can make 15-30 billion per quarter in profits, they can damned well pay taxes on it.

      America never needed so much in the last election and got so little.

      by snoopydawg on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:36:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  two cents every six months... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib, MPociask, LilithGardener

      And split the revenue with the states. They need help too, after all this belt tightening.

      With half the money going immediately back to the states with no strings attached and the other half going to federal transportation and EPA funds, everybody wins.  

      By the end of five years, the states have an additional ten cents a gallon for their state and the federal government has their ten cents, with the revenue growing until transportation books are balanced.

      At the end of ten years, obviously the split is twenty cents to the states and twenty cents to the federal government. Jobs are created. Projects flourish. Transportation books come into a better balance for both state and national governments.

      Two cents every six months. Or we could continue to do nothing.

      Of course, like the nickel, it's an arbitrary number...

      "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." ~Soren Kierkegaard

      by Beastly Fool on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:49:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  BF - the states also have the ability to add a tax (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Beastly Fool

        but I don't mind the notion of sharing with them. I think your thought of 2 cents every six months takes into account the political sensitivity to make these increases small enough that there isn't any political backlash.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:59:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Hike it a dime a gallon . . . today (0+ / 0-)

      You know what a ten cent increase in the federal gas tax would mean? Do you? It would mean the cost of a 12 gallon fill up would increase by . . .

      Wait for it.

      Sit down.

      Take a deeeeeeep breath.

      A dollar twenty.

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. Settle, people. That's right: At $3.75 a gallon, a 12-gallon fill up would cost $46.20 instead of $45.

      I KNOW. End of the frickin' world, it would be. If anybody even noticed it, that is.

    •  Shopping for a new car, people should notice (0+ / 0-)

      If you know the gas tax is going to increase, you might shop with fuel economy in mind.

      We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

      by david78209 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 06:32:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can tell you flat out they'll leave this up (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MPociask, Meteor Blades, cstark

    to the states, who really won't do it.

    PA's voters in their great wisdom sent one of the biggest advocates (a Republican, at that) for transportation funding packing last spring, and replaced him with a teapartier.

    He has consistently, for as long as I had interact with him, called for some type of gas tax increase.

    And he was mostly alone in that, on both sides of the aisle. PA last changed its gas tax in 1997 (it's a floating wholesale rate that didn't have the imagination to realize gas may someday be higher than $1.25/gal. oops. changing that floating rate would perhaps be the easiest fix.)

    Bridges falling down won't get the message across either. Louisville just spent months in chaos because of needed emergency bridge repairs. People keep saying this will happen---I do not see the evidence. The disaster will happen. People will talk about it. There will be noise. And then nothing.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:05:51 PM PST

    •  You're right about the bridges (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think our political culture has become addicted to disasters of all kinds. It gives politicians a chance to show "leadership" within a very contained time span when all the cameras are trained on them.  Witness what recently happened with Sandy.  Somehow Chris Christie became a lot of Democrats' hero for a couple things he said, in spite of all the other awful things he had done over the previous two years.  Making the hard decisions that avert disaster does not create media moments where people love you.  In short, you get a hell of a lot more political capital out of cleaning up after a disaster than you do from preventing it.

      I predict more bridge failures.

  •  To raise gasoline taxes may be the new 3rd rail. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "God bless us, every one!" ~ T. Tim

    by jwinIL14 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:05:45 PM PST

  •  Bad policy and terrible politics (4+ / 0-)

    Gas taxes are regressive. You don't raise regressive taxes, or you'll screw the people you should be helping.

    That's why raising the gas tax is bad policy, and leads into why it's terrible politics: people don't like being screwed, and the screw-ees tend to pay back the screw-ers at the ballot box.  It's a surefire recipie for electoral loss.

    "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

    by Whimsical on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:15:21 PM PST

    •  A gas tax raise may indeed be bad politics... (7+ / 0-)

      ...but the regressiveness can, as I pointed out, be remedied. We have cheap energy right now only because it's subsidized. Tens of billions of dollars of the Pentagon budget are spent to maintain access to foreign oil sources; lives are spent, too. A carbon tax without offsets for low-income people would obviously also be regressive, but that too could be offset by adjusting income tax rates, by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and other means. Many states have reduced the regressivity of sales taxes by exempting food from that levy. There are solutions. The question: Is there political will to adopt them?

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:27:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That would take money from other underfunded (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        government functions and spend it on roads.  

        I say eliminate the subsidies and foreign misadventures and spend THAT money on infrastructure.  

        Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

        by Mark Mywurtz on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:39:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, exactly. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I know Im sounding like a broken record, but you DON'T raise regressive taxes when there are other, better options, such as this.

          "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

          by Whimsical on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:17:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent points. (0+ / 0-)

        "God bless us, every one!" ~ T. Tim

        by jwinIL14 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:40:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  No, and for good reason. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Most of the plans I've seen to lower the regressivity of the gas tax fall in one of 3 areas:

        1. Rebates.  Problem is, the fact that you're going to get most of the money back is utterly useless if you don't have the money to lay out to fill your tank in the first place.

        2. Prebates.  Better, but still problematic, as they fail to take into account thinks like emergencies.  When my dad broke his ankle a few years ago, it wound up adding around 200 miles a month to my driving for a few months- if I had to depend on a prebate, my dad would've been screwed.

        3. Exemption below a certain income level.  If you're going to do that, why bother to raise the tax in the first place?

        No, me and Occam will be over by the simplest solution: You don't raise regressive taxes.  Especially not when there are other, better options, as Mark points out below.

        "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

        by Whimsical on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:16:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  How about if the tax is offset by an increase in (0+ / 0-)

      the personal exemption?

      •  And if I dont have the money to fill my tank (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to begin with, how's getting more back in my taxes going to help?

        "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

        by Whimsical on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 06:12:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  When the economy recovers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Albanius

    it'll be more politically feasible to propose a gas tax.  If you remember in the second debate, one of the audience questions was literally, "why is the price of gas so high?"  Because of Steven Chu's comments before he became Obama's Secretary of Energy (when he suggested that a higher gas tax to price gasoline similar to Europe would then spur more green energy innovation), Republicans have tried to paint Obama as the guy who loves jacking up oil prices because he loves sticking it to the Real American truckers in the south for his fairy Segway driving hippies... or something.

    The tragedy of the W. Bush administration was squandering a federal budget surplus on tax cuts and two wars.  Imagine how much better our infrastructure and services would be if that money was re-invested in the country?  It drives me crazy when I hear about a mansion with its own backup generator.  Instead of pocketing a tax cut and then building a ridiculously inefficient solution for a single home, wouldn't the wealthy just pay slightly higher taxes and get better/smarter infrastructure for EVERYONE?

  •  Smaller cars= less wear&tear on roads (6+ / 0-)

    Raise the tax on diesel fuel. Because trucks do the vast majority if not nearly all damage to interstates, let's focus on that. Fuel efficient cars reduce the need for road maintenance.

    As surely as there is a god in heaven, I am an atheist.

    by Gemut on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:18:07 PM PST

    •  Diesel cars... (0+ / 0-)

      Are more fuel efficient than regular right now, I believe.  At least the ones they sell in Europe.

      Also, if someone needs to move a good from place A to place B, there's no discretion - the truck has to go that distance.  Meanwhile, individuals have some ability to control where they work, live, and visit.

      •  This much is so (0+ / 0-)

        as a VW TDI driver, I understand that this tax will hit home. Bio-diesel is an option for those with diesel cars in many places. The very small percentage of diesel cars makes raising the diesel tax much less threatening to legislators than a gasoline tax. The reality is trucks do most of the damage to our roads and we need to represent that reality in public policy.

        As surely as there is a god in heaven, I am an atheist.

        by Gemut on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:43:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Man those TDI's (0+ / 0-)

          The Sportwagen TDI is hopefully going to be the next family car, but couldn't spring for it this last time.  40 mpg, are you kidding me?  That's an extra 10 miles per gallon, or at least 100 miles per tank, over the Elantra Touring we ended up getting.  Ah well.

      •  Goods can go by train (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's more efficient use of fuel to put a semi-trailer on a train and move it long distances that way.  Unfortunately, it's not efficient use of time because the US freight system needs a lot of work.  Rebuilding that network would create many, many jobs so forget getting that through Congress.

        Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

        by Caelian on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:59:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of things COULD go by train, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          such as passengers. And the Tea Party Republicans had a nervous breakdown over that. My corrupt governor, John Kasich, REJECTED $400 million in funding for passenger rail, claiming no one wanted to ride it. How would he know? We haven't had passenger rail in Ohio since 1971. I wish I could ride a train to Columbus next weekend instead of making  that long, boring drive on I-71.

          If we rebuilt our freight and passenger rail systems, we could take a lot of cars and trucks off the road. Kasich screamed about the potential of a $17 million-a-year subsidy for passenger rail. He has said nothing about the hundreds of millions of dollars by which Ohio subsidizes highways each year.

          This is why the argument about how much cheaper gas is here than Europe is a non-starter for me. There, regular people have other options. Here we don't. So you're punishing the people at the bottom for the ideology and self-interest of those in charge.

          Jon Husted is a dick.

          by anastasia p on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:20:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

      all of us who buy products shipped by trucks will ultimately pay the costs.  Which might be good if it causes people to buy more locally...or bad for the economy (good for the environment!) if it causes people to forgo buying some things at all.  

      Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

      by Mark Mywurtz on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:41:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A nit: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    andgarden, DaNang65, cocinero, Caelian, akmk
    One conundrum, more efficient cars means a reduction in revenue from the gas tax even though the number of miles driven—and the wear and tear on roads—does not diminish.
    The first part is certainly true but I suspect that the second is not. Damage to roads is due to weight and the efficient vehicles tend to be lighter.
  •  If this Administration would clamp down on (4+ / 0-)

    rampant speculation in the commodities markets, and do so publicly, they might be able to bring the prices at the pump down, and then use some of that saving to impose a gas tax to use for infrastructure upgrades.
       People wouldn't mind that because it's a win-win all around, except for the big-money commodities "players."

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:20:29 PM PST

  •  A higher gas tax has the added virtue (6+ / 0-)

    of making it more expensive to pollute.

    BTW, I'm up for a massive increase on the tobacco taxes, too.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:26:09 PM PST

  •  Not really. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Mywurtz, Gemut, cocinero, fuzzyguy

    once more pernicious special interests come into play.

    One conundrum, more efficient cars means a reduction in revenue from the gas tax even though the number of miles driven—and the wear and tear on roads—does not diminish

    A study ... which I can find but which the Maryland Transportation Authority pretty effectively buried ... shows big trucks - 12 to 18 wheelers - do most road damage.

    Roads built in the 1960s were not really intended for 80,000 pound trucks.

    Worse, the MDTA toll structure makes cars pay more than their relative share of maintenance, and big trucks less.

    Trucking lobby, anyone?

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:26:26 PM PST

  •  During the campaign ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... voters frequently heard the president seem to link ending the wars and bringing the money home with infrastructure improvement. That's a linkage they're not likely to let go of anytime soon.

  •  People from Europe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp, Mark Mywurtz

    Are laughing at conversations like this about whether more gas taxes are a good idea.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:33:37 PM PST

  •  Pretty much gave up on this idea by 9/30/01 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, a2nite, MPociask

    Really expected a "gas tax" announcement shortly after 9/11 - to fund a war and to move us more quickly to reduced dependence on the region. Would have been a perfect moment, and people would have piled on with enthusiasm. Instead we were told to "go shopping" One of the greatest missed opportunities ever.

    " can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem." Mitt Romney

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:34:56 PM PST

  •  In a better economy or with lower prices (0+ / 0-)

    polling might improve but I don't anyone who doesn't think gas is
    too high right now. Given a choice, I think most people would opt to get the money from the oil companies.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:37:28 PM PST

  •  Bill Shuster is like his dad (0+ / 0-)

    He may not be much for taxes, but he LOVES highways.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:42:48 PM PST

  •  Mixed feelings - AGW vs regressive tax (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yes it is a regressive tax, but it is also an excellent way to internalize the external costs of CO2 emissions.  Maybe better than cap 'n trade.  Implemented slowly with offsets for the regressive aspects, I would be in favor.

    •  Fuel taxes are easier than polluter taxes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Maybe I'm missing something, but the beautiful simplicity of taxing carbon as close to the source as possible, instead of going after the end user who puts the carbon into the air, has always made it more attractive to me.  It's a lot easier to keep track of carbon when it's a rock (coal) or sludge (petroleum) or a gas (natural gas), then to keep track of how much CO2 Acme Co. is putting into the air.  

      For that matter, why do we tax retail gasoline sales, and not just tax the bulk sales?  The consumer is going to ultimately pay for it either way, but at least it wouldn't be taking money directly from his money.  

  •  A carbon tax would be better (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albanius, fuzzyguy

    and more inline with emerging international policy.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:44:57 PM PST

    •  For a carbon tax to work (and I support one)... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite must actually be international in scope. I think chances of imposing one anytime soon, despite the crying need, is a long way off.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:51:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Elizabeth Kolbert in the NYer on C tax (0+ / 0-)

        Dec 10 issue,  Paying For It, here:


        Not long ago, the Congressional Research Service reported that, over the next decade, a relatively modest carbon tax could cut the projected federal deficit in half. Such a tax would be imposed not just on gasoline but on all fossil fuels—from the coal used to generate electricity to the diesel used to run tractors—so it would affect the price of nearly everything, including food and manufactured goods. To counter its regressive effects, the tax could be used as a substitute for other, even more regressive taxes, or, alternatively, some of the proceeds could be returned to low-income families as rebates (although, of course, this would cut down on the amount that could go toward deficit reduction).

        Shortly after the C.R.S. report came out, the conservative American Enterprise Institute teamed up with its liberal counterpart, the Brookings Institution, to host a seminar on the subject, a collaboration that prompted the Wall Street Journal’s Web site to declare, “carbon tax idea gains wonkish energy.”

        “I think the impossible may be moving to the inevitable without ever passing through the probable,” Bob Inglis, a former Republican representative from South Carolina and a carbon-tax backer, told the Associated Press.

        Read more:

        There's no such thing as a free market!

        by Albanius on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:48:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Could use it to eliminate the payroll tax (0+ / 0-)

          For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

          by Anne Elk on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:59:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Have to do it country by country though, I think (0+ / 0-)

        For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

        by Anne Elk on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:59:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Seems regressive to me. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, fuzzyguy

    And the food stamp idea doesn't sound like a fix.

    Yeah, the poorest would be helped, but a gas tax is going to nail the lower middle class too.

    Perhaps even more, since they're more likely to have cars than the poor.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:46:29 PM PST

  •  This isn't helped (0+ / 0-)

    by the fact that, in general, they're driving bigger vehicles and driving them farther in those rural red states.  If by occupational necessity or general macho mindless dumbassedness you're putting $200+ in your tank a week, you're going to cry about even the most miniscule increase in gas prices.  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:47:29 PM PST

    •  Rural is overblown (0+ / 0-)

      This is something on my mind for a while now, so this isn't really directed at you, but there's a lot of talk of rural areas.  To my mind, rural = farmers.  And there just aren't a lot of farmers anymore, anywhere.  

      Consider Alabama.  That's there employment numbers.  They've got about 2,000,000 employees in a state of about 4.8 million people.  Looking it up, I was surprised to see what category agriculture was lumped in with: All Other.  "All Other includes agriculture, self-employed, unpaid family workers, and
      private household that are not covered by unemployment insurance."  That category, total, equals 190,000 - less than 10% of the workforce.

      What about those 4.8 million people?  If Wikipedia's not lying to me, It looks like about 3.3 million of them live in metropolitan areas of cities which range in size from >200,000 people (Birmingham) to 36,000 (Gadsen).  

      So certainly, lots of people live in low-population density areas.  But it's not like they live in an agrarian society, either.

      Maybe it's just me conflating rural with agricultural, I dunno.

      •  My point was simply (0+ / 0-)

        that if you spend some time in republican corn country--and I have--you'll see lots bigazz trucks...some necessary for farm work, many just oversized toys for guys with undersized...ahem....and you'll see those trucks getting LOTS of miles put on them.  If you're part of the "drive a hugeazz truck a thousand miles a week" culture, you're going to object to a gas tax increase before you look at your own vehicle and driving habit choices.  

        Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

        by Mark Mywurtz on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:13:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Definitely (0+ / 0-)

          Like I said, comment was not directed at you, but more my ADD springing out.

          I live in Georgia, and have seen lots and lots of rural Georgia.  Lots and lots of pick up trucks.  

          This is a gross generalization, but man, even coming from Georgia, even I was surprised at the amount of big trucks and SUV's in Texas when I visited there a few years back.  It's probably actually similar, but then again, they say everything's bigger in Texas.

  •  Rather just kill the subsides to the oil companies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, a2nite, Albanius, fuzzyguy

    Then let them raise gas prices if they want.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:48:42 PM PST

  •  It's a road use fee, not a tax (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albanius, MPociask

    It's no different than charging a toll on a bridge or a turnpike.  It makes total sense for the people who use the roads to pay for them, and people who drive heavier vehicles that do more damage to the roads should pay more.  It makes sense for vehicles that contribute to acid rain should pay for the damage to roads that that acid rain produces.  It makes sense for vehicles that contribute to dangerous carbon dioxide levels should pay for that damage as well.

    I say increase the gas tax until it matches European and Japanese rates, and use the money to pay for excellent public transportation like you get in Europe and Japan.  What's regressive is charging people $2 or more to ride a bus, which has infrequent, unreliable service, with extra cost for transfers.  What's regressive is forcing people who can't afford cars to buy and use them anyway because there's no practical alternative.

    'Mercans drive way too much -- you can tell by the obsesity rates.  Take a look at countries where people use public transportation for most of their transportation needs -- or US cities where public transportation is more practical than cars.  Those people are a whole lot healthier.

    As for rural folks: well, Rudolf Diesel was a big proponent of farmers running their vehicles using vegetable oil they produced themselves, and his eponymous engine makes that possible.  Rudolf Diesel was unpopular with the petroleum interests and he died under mysterious circumstances.

    Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

    by Caelian on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:54:27 PM PST

  •  Ah, another regressive tax to screw regular people (0+ / 0-)

    (R's) take those tired memes and shove 'em, Denise Velez Oliver, 11/7/2012.

    by a2nite on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:17:24 PM PST

  •  Please raise my gas taxes (0+ / 0-)

    I drive a hemi Charger about 18-20K miles per year, burning about a thousand gallons of gas. It's a police model, which I ordered new because it was exactly what I wanted. It's brutish, fast, and thirsty... like I said, exactly what I wanted. At an average 20 mpg, it will burn a thousand gallons of fuel per year, and I will be smiling from ear to ear as they burn.

    I'd love to be taxed more on it. No snark. I really want an increase in the gasoline tax.

    It bugs the crap out of me to drive on the Interstates, across majestic but crumbling bridges, and know that we won't replace a bridge until it has fallen into the river... and we couldn't build anything like the Interstate Highway System today because of Republicans crying "Socialism!"

    So, please charge me more. I knew the cost of my gas would inevitably rise, yet I bought a 4250-lb, 370 horsepower car. Fifty cents a gallon would cost me about $500 per year. I can afford it... and America can't afford to let our infrastructure decay like the Roman Empire's roads. Without it, what good is the car?

    "She's petite, extremely beautiful, and heavily armed." -1995 Michael Moore documentary Canadian Bacon

    by Tom Seaview on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:24:43 PM PST

  •  I believe there have been some studies (0+ / 0-)

    demonstrating that the cost of auto damage/repair because of bad roads is greater than the cost of fixing roads. Finding information like that may help.

  •  terminology (0+ / 0-)

    Please refrain from using DC in a pejorative sense against the politicians. That has been the one term those of us living in DC have been able to hold onto till now. Washington, Beltway, Washington Politicians, Washington DC all fair game.

    Just please please leave us the one positive term for the city!

  •  Moving the unfathaomable tons of freight (0+ / 0-)

    off roads and back on to rails would certainly help reduce the rate by which our infrastructure crumbles. The rails could be used to move people too.

    Gas taxes are regressive when it is usually only the wealthy who can afford to live close their place of employment. Reduce the sprawl, and make public transit available that effectively gets people where they need to be. Once that is set up a gas tax could be suggested that wouldn't be quite so regressive on the poor.

    Better yet, carbon could be taxed at the source when it is bought and sold on the global market so that those who use the most fuel, be it diesel or petrol, pay the most in the taxes to rebuild and maintain infrastructure rather than making life even more difficult for the working poor.

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