Reich is Wrong
Okay, he was right but he said one thing that I thought was wrong. In this column, he pointed out (correctly) that “The Big Three” automakers won’t make fuel efficient cars as long as gas is under $2 a gallon. That, I believe, is correct. But in the next breath, he said raising the gas tax was politically impossible. He may be right -- but it’s wrong.
My wife and I were driving down the road last month and we went by a gas station advertising regular for a $1.75 a gallon. My wife said she never thought she’d see those prices again (we went to about $4.25 a gallon a few months ago.) I said, “If I was king, I’d raise the gas tax 25 cents a gallon -- today.” And I would.
That is probably one reason we don’t have a king here in the United States. But it presents us with a problem. We’re broke. The only way to get un-broke is to raise taxes to pay our debts. I know the Republican Party has spent the last quarter century telling you that taxes are the root of all evil -- and the Democrats have let them. Taxes aren’t popular. They aren’t supposed to be. But they are necessary if you want roads, bridges, schools and air traffic controllers. If you’re bright enough to read this blog you’re bright enough to know it.
It’s time to grow up, face reality, assume the responsibilities of being an adult and pay our bills. The only question we need to answer is how we would like to pay them. I think a gas tax is a great way to pay them. First, we use too much gas and we know it. The cheaper it is, the more we use. As those “market forces“ the Republicans like to talk about show, if we quit using so much, the price goes down.
It’s already been made abundantly clear that being addicted to oil is not in our national interests. Choking the Earth and fighting wars is part of the cost of oil that never shows up on the books. But it is a cost and it won’t go away until we make it go away. I’d make the tax adjustable. The more the price of gas goes down, the more it gets taxed to keep it at a price that discourages wanton consumption. (Say $3 a gallon for argument’s sake.) If the price goes up, we lower the tax to ease the economic burden on consumers.
To sum it up, I think a gas tax is exactly what we need. Professor Reich may be right -- it may be politically impossible -- but until a few months ago, so was electing a black man to be President. That was the right thing to do and we did it. Maybe we ought to try doing the right thing more often.
December 5, 2008