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Gas Tax Idea is Good!

The arguments in favor for the 50 cent gas tax in today’s show were all good – a non-moronic idea from Car Talk! The usual argument against taxes is that when people have less money to spend, salespeople and restaurant workers and others will lose income, default on their mortgages, the economy will tank, etc. But if all the gas tax money is spent on “stimulus”, that offsets it. (But maybe it would be even better to borrow the money for the stimulus now and pay it back later with a gas tax starting next fall?) Here’s one more argument in favor: the gas tax has a built-in “sunset” in the sense that as we replace gas-fueled vehicles with new transportation, the hit on our pocketbooks goes down even if the tax is never repealed.

Well maybe not.

First off, the government already takes in too much money. Consider that the United States spends more on defense and defense related spending that the almost the whole rest of the world combined and that it maintains military facilities at over 700 locations in 130 countries around the globe. If the domestic economy needs help from the government the best way to achieve it would be to make drastic cuts in this area and divert the savings into infrastructure projects and/or lower taxes.

Secondly, the idea that the government can stimulate the economy is questionable. Any monies that the government would raise for such a project are really only redistributions of the pool of existing wealth and assume that the government is wiser and knows better about how to spend for good results.

See also the “National gas tax” discussion in the “General” topic area.

You may be right, I don’t know. At least this would push the economy away from gas consumption while providing funds for activities the government doesn’t seem otherwise inclined to engage in.

The wisdom of government in general isn’t the question, the question is the wisdom of the Car Talk Gas Tax Plan, and whether the government would be wise to follow Car Talk’s advice. What am I saying?!? Can we have a “Stump the Chumps” on this some day?

If we stop the porkbarrel spending (are you listening Sen. Byrd from W.Va?), stop payouts to special interest groups, amd stop shoveling money to unworthy private interests (one of the financial institutions we gave $20 billion to just wrote $22 billion in annual bonus checks), and stop payouts to special interest groups (via funding of “pet” projects), and are then not wallowing in surplus (we would be) THEN I will support an additional gas tax.

The flame of spending grows bigger as you shovel in fuel. Unfortuantely, with the current system, far too much of the heat generated is simply wasted. It’s like having a furnace that burns 50 gallons of oil a day but cannot heat a 2-bedroom ranch because 90% of the heat is sent up the chimney.

For what it is worth, I agree with Ray. We need to reduce our consumption of oil by over 50% in the next ten years. We have been ignoring the problem for over three decades. We can ignore it no longer.

The question is now whether we will have the courage to do so. Sadly, I believe the answer is, “No.”

I would argue that he problem is not lack of courage, the problem is simply that more taxation won’t solve a thing. Never has, never will.

First we need to seperate the tax from all the good programs that would supposedly come from it. Those are seperate issues entirely. If they’re good ideas then fund them regardless. Or start a campaign platform on “Let’s raise taxes b/c the money will go to good programs!” After all, shouldn’t this argument apply to all taxes in general?

Ditto on reliance on foreign oil. Then pump here, we do have it. The issue at hand is decreasing oil consumption period, regardless of where it comes from.

Okay, that leaves raising the tax to discourage gas use. Demand goes down, so the base price goes down, and the actual price increase is a little less than 50 cents pergallon. Oil consumption goes down. Yay.

Except most people use 95% of their gas out of need, and this only goes so far. It assumes people aren’t already limiting their gas consumption to save money. Gas is necessary and beneficial; going faster saves a great deal of time and reasonable acceleration insures safer passing without missing exits. And time saved turns into money and resources saved, which people naturally balance against the price of gas required to do it (without any help). Bumping up the price artifically skews this balance. Finally, there’s an extremely high energy cost associated with refining rare materials out of massive quantities of ore and transporting them. These are used in hybrids, which is reflected in their cost. Artificially changing prices to get people to use them in suboptimal situations - like frequent freeway driving - may actually increase energy usage.

I do think it’s a good idea to tax gas according to the cost of upkeeping roads because those that use more generally gas tend to use and damage these roads more. For the same reasons mentioned it would artifically over-encourage driving if everyone - not just the drivers - had to pay for these things, i.e. if drivers paid less than what it was really costing. I could be wrong, but I think this is how the present gas tax already works. But like I said in the first paragraph, that doesn’t mean the tax money always goes where it should. We really need to stop wasting tax money on other things and upkeep the roads regardless. More taxes don’t solve that.

Hallelujah!! I have been suggesting this every time the gas price goes down.

How do I join a movement to get this idea some serious consideration by tax-increase wary politicians?

We need so desperately to:
Encourage people to drive less (by raising the cost of gas)
Reduce our dependence on mostly foreign oil
Encourage more of our freight to go by new high-speed and double-tracked rail
Encourage more of us to go by new high-speed and double-tracked rail
Fund alternative auto transportation solutions to clean up our air and reduce global warming
Build (and rebuild) highways that keep vehicles moving a economical speeds instead of gas-guzzling bumper-to-bumper commute speeds
Put a lot of out-of-work skilled construction folks back to work

I’m with ya, Tom and Ray – Where do I sign up?

Nothing would make the gas guzzler obsolete or encourage public transportation or save gas or decrease CONGESTION faster than the 55 mph speed limit. AT a steady 55 mph, my gas guzzling 4 Runner gets 26.5 mpg. Public transportation is favored by most when it’s more convenient and quicker. This would make it so.
Make the speed limit 25 mph, and we would all be driving electric golf carts.
Gas is already taxed progressively …the more you drive, the more you pay.
No additional tax is needed.

Well, let’s back up a second here. If the government were taking in too much money, we wouldn’t be engaged in deficit spending, would we? We would have more than enough. You should have said the government is SPENDING too much money in the wrong places. Even with this as a argument though, we could still institute a gas tax, and reduce some other tax to compensate. The trouble with our high current taxes is that they do not stimulate the public to conserve, or do anything else constructive.

I’m with you that the government can’t stimulate the economy, but I believe that taxing the right things can give the public the incentive to stop buying the product that is taxed. Cigarettes is a perfect example. It is also a good idea to get the public to stop spending money on fuel, which is an import, and thus save money which they can use to buy domestic products, which in turn, will at least help stimulate our domestic economy, rather than that of the middle east.
Dick B.

You said "Except most people use 95% of their gas out of need,"
Let me start by saying that most of your post is intelligent and well thought out, and overall, I agree with your reasoning, especially about using gas tax money as highway funds, so that the users of the roadways pay for the maintenance of the roads.

I disagree with the fact that most people use 95 % of their gas out of need. As an example, more than 50% of the commuter vehicles on the roads in the mornings and evenings are Trucks, SUVs, and Vans, (about 16mpg average) all with a capacity of at least 4 people, yet 90% of those vehicles are carrying only one person. If all those vehicles with only one person were subcompacts, (better than 35mpg) they would be using 1/2 as much fuel. Combine that with driving 60mph instead of 75, and there’s another 20% saving.

We have many other ways of saving fuel that we don’t take advantage of, mainly because it’s just too darn cheap to just buy more gas, like driving our kids to school instead of putting them on the bus, Idling in front of the school while waiting for them, instead of shutting off the engine.

Finally, I don’t think Ray’s idea is bad, it just doesn’t go far enough. A few months ago, we were paying $4.10/gallon for gasoline. We were managing to get along, and people were beginning to conserve a little (a statistical fact). We should institute a tax which will bring the price back up to at least the same amount, and designate all of that money to be used on transportation research, and infrastructure

Tom and Ray Magliozzi hope that the tax would raise 100 billion dollars. That’s 100 billion dollars that would be sucked out of the private sector. Money that people need to pay their spiraling bills and support their families. If, as I suggested at the top of this thread, the U.S. slashed its military budget by half that would free up 500 billion dollars and still leave the U.S. as the world’s strongest military power. Then allocate the money to paying down the national debt and tax cuts all around. This would cause prosperity to return and with a strong economy there would be money enough for infrastructure investments.

I cerrtainly agree that a gas tax, or gas tax hike, would be a good thing. Ray’s arguments are all good. There are always those who think that any tax is bad, but in this case the positive effects more than offset the negative ones.
The effect of this tax would be to curtail spending on foreign oil (a bad thing) thus causing people to save money which they could spend on domestic products (such as fuel-efficient cars). For the US economy, this would be a net gain.
I would only suggest one modification… Increase the fuel tax by $1.00 instead of $0.50. Let’s face it, when gasoline was selling for over $4.00/gallon, we were all still able to get to work, people were still driving their 60 pound children to school in 6000 pound SUVs, and hardly anyone even thought of sharing rides. The Hummers didn’t stop running, and WalMart still managed to get merchandise trucked to their stores. If suddenly gasoline was $2.75/gallon, we would still have a bargain, and the only people who would feel the pinch are those who own the gas-guzzlers. My fellow Chevy Cobolt drivers would only suffer by $350/year, and the tax collected from the Escalades and Hummers would help pay for the damage those hogs do to the road system. Bring on the taxes!
Dickey B

But just think, sucking that 100 billion dollars out of those people who waste fuel in those huge, inefficieng gas-guzzlers would feel sooooo good to us who drive economical, practical, vehicles. Let’s face it, If you double the cost of gas, and then everyone starts using half as much fuel (by buying a practical vehicle), then you haven’t sucked a single penny out of the economy, you have just put that money to better use, instead of wasting it.

Anybody Who Thinks Their Taxes Aren’t High Enough Should Make Arrangements To Keep Sending Our Government More Of Their Money!

Problem Solved! This would be good for those who believe in more tax and those who have had enough. My taxes are way too high already. In fact my taxes have contributed to all this latest stuff our government is screwing up, not limited to, but including the economy.

The Government has 3 reasons to spend our money. Defending our nation is first, followed by operating a judicial system, and maintaining national monuments. That’s it! That’s all! That was the original role of government. Now its role seems to be to grow, become more costly, more restrictive, and screw up everything it gets into.

I’m not warming the planet. I haven’t had a mortgage to pay for my house. I have no credit cards and no loans of any kind. I do not need a stimulus. I am fully and totally capable and responsible for myself and my family, as I should be.

The last thing I need to hear is, “I’m from the Government. I’m here to help you.”

A plain gas tax would hurt the poor and we need to cut all CO2 sources, although I mightn’t be able to say that given NPR’s funding from big carbon. Google “tax alligator shoes”; from NASA’s Jim Hansen’s
It worked for Sarah Palin in Ak

"That’s 100 billion dollars that would be sucked out of the private sector"
Not really. The private sector doesn’t use cash and there is no practical limit to the money supply. It’s a complicated equation.

If you slashed the military budget by one half, you would directly threaten the jobs of 3 million people and indirectly threaten the jobs of another 3 million. We’d be at about 25% unemployment.

By the way - this hits it on the head. We were doing fine while were pumping $20 billion a month into the Iraq war machine. All that money was flowing back into domestic housing and cars.

So, you want to double the hangover?

At the least, the tax will cut down on driving and we might as well get the money as the oil countries At the best, some of the proposals might occur and they could be legislated to occur.

Guess Again! The Cost Of Gas Doubled And People Didn’t Use Half As Much.
The cost of gas halved and people didn’t double their usage. I drive big Detroit Iron and I will drive as much as I want to drive, whatever the price. I have better things to be concerned about.