Wednesday, April 30, 2008

People know that suspending the gas tax is dumb

For all the talk of suspending the gas tax, the part that really bugs me is the analysis that this is smart politics by Clinton and McCain. I disagree. I think this is lousy politics because people aren't dumb enough to think that a gas tax holiday will solve anything. The problem is not that gas is about $.20 too high per gallon, it's that people are required to use so much of it. Granted, a lot of the moaning about the price of gas is because people bought inefficient cars to begin with, but I suspect that everybody knows that a holiday will not make a difference, and will probably hurt in the long run because of lowered revenues for investment in the transportation system.

As for McCain specifically, his proposal signals a bizarre hostility to any and all earmarks. By eliminating the gas tax, he is effectively saying he doesn't like not only earmarks on spending, but earmarks on revenue. He wants all taxes to be contributed to the general fund, I guess. The gas tax and Highway Trust Fund, while problematic for a variety of reasons, are pretty good public policy and shouldn't be broken. For it they are broken, they are unlikely to be fixed. Until we start paying for the roads and space we use directly, they are the best we have.

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