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Monday, December 29, 2008

Tax Our Gas, Buck a Gallon, Now!

I like saving a billion dollars a day on gas as much as the next guy, but if just two months of cheaper gas have us Americans dropping hybrids and buying more SUVs, we need a kick in the pants... or the pocketbook. It's time to bring gas back to $3 a gallon. The South Dakota Legislature could do it, but it would be better coming from Barack Obama. How? Say the magic words:

Gas tax.

I could tell you why, but Thomas Friedman can tell you better. This is no hippie cry to destroy Detroit and put everyone on bicycles; Friedman offers a hardnosed geopolitical argument that would make Kissinger and Brzezinski proud:

A gas tax reduces gasoline demand and keeps dollars in America, dries up funding for terrorists and reduces the clout of Iran and Russia at a time when Obama will be looking for greater leverage against petro-dictatorships. It reduces our current account deficit, which strengthens the dollar. It reduces U.S. carbon emissions driving climate change, which means more global respect for America. And it increases the incentives for U.S. innovation on clean cars and clean-tech [Thomas Friedman, "Win, Win, Win, Win, Win," New York Times, 2008.12.28].

Of course, if you think driving your Hummer with pride is more important than standing up to Iran and Russia... well, that's the sort of vanity that destroys empires.

Man up, America: gas tax and Smart cars are the path to a second American century.


  1. Are you out of your frickin' mind?

    Here we are trying to figure out how to put food on the table and you want to tax us to death.

    I suppose we have to pay for the wall street bailout somehow.

  2. Why punish everyone for the sins of a few? Adding a large fuel consumption tax to vehicles that are rated at less than 20mpg City would create consumer demand for better fuel economy in cars and SUVs. That will drive the automakers to produce better mileage from mainstream vehicles. There is a luxury tax on some of the higher-priced vehicles, but tossing an extra $10,000 or $15,000 on each Hummer, Suburban, Tahoe, Navigator and Escalade would cause a shift in buying patterns. No need to tax everyone. Just the gas hoggers. Technically, they're paying more gas tax anyway because of their consumption, but I think our goal should be conservation of resources and better fuel economy and better choices would help.

  3. I love the idea of a gas tax but would like to limit it to noncommercial vehicles. Commerce in general needs a boost and I think a fair trade is to punish people like me driving around in an SUV that really could do just as well with a nice honda civic.

    Let's help industry and punish those who don't really need to be driving big vehicles.

  4. Wow! I am sure glad all of the folks in Sioux Falls don't need four wheel drive in the winter, and have no problem trading for a Honda..please, give us a break. For those of us living in rural areas, without snow plows, take your gas tax...well, I suppose I better end it their.

  5. Sounds like we rural folks aren't as tough as we like to say we are without all our big toys. Boo hoo. Ever hear of the all-wheel drive Subaru?

    Besides (I now channel my conservative friends), you chose to live in the country. You knew it would cost you more to drive. Are you willing to make a sacrifice to strengthen our country against Iran and Russia?

  6. The reality is we only need four-wheel drive about five days out of the year, but all-wheel drive can be important throughout the winter. How about the 28 miles-per-gallon Toyota Rav4 with all-wheel drive.

  7. Cory-

    On Friday, you said that cheap gas was economic stimulus we could believe in. Your stance on the issues is about as flip-floppy as your man-crush Obama's. How would raising taxes on gas help anything right now? And YOU WOULD tell me to go out and buy a Jap Subaru, a car that's NOT made in America that I CAN'T BUY at Prostrollo's. Do you even give 2 sh*ts about the economy? Subaru's really aren't that great on gas anyway.

  8. are you high, or just dumb? high gas prices are why this country is in a depression now,

  9. Anon 11:44: My commentary on cheap gas providing economic stimulus was merely a factual assessment of what could happen. My position on the gas tax is a sincere statement on what should happen. The long-term economic and geopolitical (you keep forgetting about Iran and Russia) advantages of raising the gas tax outweigh the short-term benefits of more consumer spending.

    Thinking it is more patriotic to buy at Prostrollo's than to get off our addiction to Iranian/Russian/Saudi oil shows your lack of political vision, not to mention forgetfulness: Prostrollos would be just as patriotic if they sold Toyota Corollas instead of Ford Foci and more patriotic if they sold Tunrdas instead of F-150s (as I reported in May).

    I care very much about the economy... the entire U.S. economy. You evidently care only about your personal economy.

    Anon 6:59: If your thesis is correct, we should see the recession ending right about, oh, yesterday. (And see above for the difference between short-term and long-term economic benefits.)

  10. I actually think Tony's idea of exempting commercial vehicles might be useful. My mother owns a small business that depends on making deliveries around the state, and this summer's gas prices almost did her in. I'm sure she's not alone in that.

    On a less anecdotal level, when gas prices raise the cost of goods, it's no longer just taxing Hummer drivers...it's screws the Honda drivers as well, and becomes a regressive tax. Exempting commercial vehicles still puts the squeeze on Detroit to produce more efficient vehicles, and doesn't hurt both business owners and consumers in the process.

  11. If we can exempt commercial vehicles while still keeping the pressure on Detroit to change the economy and get OPEC's hooks out of us, I might live with that.

    What about an upfront MPG tax? Pick a target fuel standard, say 30 MPG. For every 1 MPG below that, you pay (or the manufacturer pays) $500 per vehicle. Get better than 30 MPG, and you pay nothing, or even get a proportional rebate. Which would have less impact on a commercial operator's bottom line, a one-time purchase cost or a continuing operating cost?

  12. CAH:

    I think an upfront tax would be less effective than a straight usage tax. Further, the value of the upfront tax is less for every year the vehicle is kept on the road. Fuel taxes are quasi retroactive and will provide a further incentive to get older inefficient vehicles off the road.

    Additionally, I could grab a fuel efficient vehicle and drive it a ton while someone sporting a minivan who drives it much less could be disproportionately punished for their use.

    We should tax use. Taxing the gas can is much less effective.

  13. A interesting story on gas taxes:


  14. OK, you favor a gas tax. Seems that tax would hit the poor at a much higher percentage than the "rich." But that is fine with you? How then do you state that we should repeal the tax on food for the same reason, that it falls more heavily on the poor? Seems you are using the same argument for two opposite scenarios.

    The O is going to tax us all to death anyhow, just wait and see. How else is he going to get the money to support all his tax decreases and higher gov't programs? On the one hand he promises lower taxes for 95% of the people. On the other hand he is going to raise taxes. Seems he is very adept at talking out of both sides of his mouth.

  15. It [a gas tax] reduces our current account deficit, which strengthens the dollar.

    Only if the government keeps itself from spending all the revenue the tax generates.

  16. Anon 11:12: The sales tax does not have the same geopolitical implications as the gas tax. Taxing food is just regressive. Raising the gas tax better captures the externalities of fossil fuel usage and makes America stronger against its enemies, a point you Anonymi keep missing. Are you patriots or not? Do you want to fight Arab terrorists and petro-dictators or not?

  17. Cory, you sound like Biden when he said we should be glad to do our patriotic duty and pay higher taxes if we happen to be successful and make money. So now it is our patriotic duty to pay more gas taxes in order to fight terrorism? Sorry, I simply don't buy it.

    It would make more sense to drill for more of our own oil and use more of our own God-given resources, which would in actuality lessen our dpeendence on foreign oil. Why are the Dem's so against that much more realistic and sensible policy?

    Thinking that paying higher taxes is going to help fight terrorism is ridiculous!

  18. Biden was right. I suppose you think paying higher taxes didn't help fight World War II, either.

    Using less gas this year has done more to lower oil prices and lessen our dependence on foreign oil than any additional exploration or production. And it's more important that we break our dependence on oil, period, not just foreign oil. A higher gas tax would better reflect the real economic and geopolitical costs of our addiction to oil.

  19. Getting off dependence on oil is fine for me -- eventually. It is not something that can or will occur overnight. Too much of our entire infrastructure is dependent on oil,not just cars. And those of us who own these gas driven autos will not and cannot go out and buy new vehicles in the next month or so to break our addiction to oil. They aren't available and we couldn't afford new cars even if they were, unless of course Uncle Sam would pay us to do so. They seem to have a never-ending stream of cash these days!

    Gas driven cars will be around for a long time, as will other parts of our infracstructure dependent on oil.

    But getting back to taxes, raising gas taxes to pay for the war? I thought raising gas taxes was to be used for road repair etc.

    But what about the people who can't afford higher gas taxes, i.e. the "poor?" There will then have to be a Gas Tax Refund policy put in place to refund their taxes, because of couse the over 50% who pay virtually no taxes now will never stand for higher gas taxes, and we could never expect it from them either!

    You know, I do agree with Biden on one thing. It IS the patriotic duty of all US citizens to pay taxes (note I'm not saying higher taxes, I'm just saying taxes). The problem is that about half don't, the rest of us essentially pay our share plus theirs.

  20. Anon, read Friedman again... or maybe go back to the original post and read him for the first time, since you keep missing the point. The gas tax doesn't directly pay for the war (although it provides revenues for road construction that then free up other revenues for war spending). The gas tax keeps the pressure up for consumers to change their fuel consumption habits and automakers to change their production habits to make us less dependent on oil, which will mean the Saudis and Iranians and Russians will have less money in their coffers to make trouble, which will mean we won't have to spend as much to fight them.

    As for burdening the poor, cigarette taxes have the same regressive impact, but we do it anyway, because the harm of the addiction outweighs the harm of the regressive tax.


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