6/03/2008

The Fallacy of Raising the Gas Tax

More and more, I hear people saying that the government should raise the gas tax to help wean the country off foreign oil. Not only is this coming from the environmentalist side but now it’s starting to make its way into the realm of the conservatives. The logic is simple, use the tax revenue to provide funding for alternative energy research. How can anyone be against that? All we need to do is provide some funding for someone to figure out how to do it.

We live in the greatest country civilization has ever seen. Generations of Americans have used the capitalistic ideals of good ideas and a strong work ethic to improve their lives and the lives of others. Today, however, new technology is expensive so a little capital to jump start the process can’t hurt, right?

In theory, it’s hard to argue with this approach. But as with any good idea, the devil is in the details. And we have one great, big devil (so to speak) in the details of this plan. It’s called Government.

Can anyone name a program run by the Government that is efficient and cost effective? Yeah, I thought so. Let’s look at the track record. Welfare? I guess it helps a few who really need, but how many people fall into the “lifestyle”. Whether it is the inner city or rural America, there are numerous 3rd generation welfare trash sitting on their @$$, pumping out kids, and feeling entitled to your taxes. Social Security? Pork Barrel entitlements from Congress? You get the point.

Can you really expect the Government to efficiently manage a program flush with cash? And can we trust them? Back in the 1980’s, when Mario Cuomo controlled NY, he raised the gas tax to cover the cost of road repairs. The increase was supposed to go into a special fund specifically for roads repair and improvement. Being a na├»ve conservative, I actually thought this was a good idea. After all, I drove on the roads, and they could use some repairs, so I didn’t have a problem with paying to help keep them up. Two years later, the NY state legislature voted to put the special fund road repair money in with the general fund. Their reasoning was that road repairs came from the general fund so why not put all of it there. But the general fund also paid the rest of the bills so there was no way be certain that the extra gas tax revenues were actually going to road repair or some other mismanaged program. So the tax went up, the roads didn’t get fixed , and NY state drivers are still paying extra.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we absolutely have to find a way to develop alternative energy. As a country, how can we protect ourselves when we have to rely on an energy source controlled by despots and barbarians, all the while competing with China and India for the resources? Here is a better idea. Let’s use tax breaks to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in alternative energy. Allow the capitalist system to work. Americans have always been good at innovation, government has not. Let’s streamline the process for building wind farms by not subjecting companies to frivolous lawsuits because it may hurt a subspecies of bat that is nearly identical to other bat populations or it may be ruin the view of the Kennedy’s and other rich socialites when it id placed 20 miles off the coast of Nantucket. Let’s build some more nuclear plants. If the French can manage a national system of nuclear power without screwing it up we should be able to. But whatever we do, don’t give the government more money.

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