Ed: The Gas Tax Holiday

Let me wander a little bit off topic to talk about the Gas Tax Holiday.  I don’t want to wander too far into politics, but I have to give kudos to Senator Obama for boldly opposing it despite the fact that many Americans will perceive it to mean he wants them to have expensive gas (how elitist!)

I drive only for work or when I am home on vacation. Most of the time, my ride is 600-feet long, seats hundreds, tops out at about 50 miles per hour, weighs many tons, uses enough energy to light Buffalo… yet is surprisingly efficient considering.

First, the average amount of money saved under the plan is about $30 per family. By car ownership standards, this is a drop in the bucket. It’s less than 1/2 a tank of ONE refill. Now consider insurance, maintenance, tolls, parking, gas… if you can afford those things, $30 is not going to be the difference between eating and not.

Now consider this. Gas prices remain as high as they do because although people are driving somewhat less, there are still a ton of people purchasing gas at the current prices. Exxon had its best quarter ever with a whopping $10.9 billion profits. (Hope you’re not eating lunch.) With that in mind, let’s take a look at an Econ 101 chart:

If the government artificially lowers the price of gas, then the demand (blue line) will grow (shift right). Guess what that means? The prices will go right back up. So now we’ve taken away tax money that is used to invest in YOUR community towards things like infrastructure repair, and used it to line the pockets of the oil companies. Hey, maybe next quarter Exxon can have a $14 billion profit!

Here’s what Clinton had to say about it:

I’m not going to put in my lot with economists… Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantages the vast majority of Americans.

Yeah! What do the economists know? Seriously?

Car culture in America is deeply entrenched, so much so that people resort to illogical arguments (or simply ignoring the facts like Clinton). Cries that Congestion Pricing in New York City would harm the middle class was disingenous, considering the overall cost of parking in Manhattan in the first place is so outrageously expensive (over $600 a month at a garage near me) that anyone who is driving in is WEALTHY. Period! Poor people are not driving into Manhattan! Admittedly, CP had its problems–for one, people who don’t have access to transit need better Park-and-Ride facilities at transit stations first.

Honestly, what is up with the acceptance by the MSM and general populace of doublespeak and logical fallacies in modern politics?

It’s all part of a slow and painful realization that the era of cheap oil is over. An 18 cents per gallon tax break for 3 months that will eat jobs and infrastructure improvements is not going to change this. What will revitalize this country is a massive Federal infrastructure overhaul program providing jobs, research, innovation, and investment that, at long last, rebuilds and reconnects the country with dependable, safe, multimodal, ecological, and efficient transportation. It’s how all of our existing infrastructure came to be, but it’s literally falling apart and its based on dated thinking. Obama’s call to invest in the rail system instead of a nonsensical tax break is a nice one, but it’s not thinking big enough. As long as politicians pander to their constituents or simply do not have a clue, this country will continue to languish and fall behind as the rest of the developed world moves forward. This is our chance.

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