I don’t deserve the credit


After noting that one or two of my correspondents were — and I’m sure they were doing it for convenience’s sake — referring to the gasoline tax hike as "Brad’s taxing scheme," or using similar terms, I thought I’d better set the record straight.

I deserve neither the credit nor the blame. In fact, before I embraced the idea, I went through all the objections that y’all raise — disproportionate burden on the working class, cooling effect on the economy, etc. But I believe this is the best, clearest way to:

  • Spread the burden of fighting terror among ALL of us; it’s obscene that we’re not asked to do a thing beyond being inconvenienced at airports. (And while I worry about the poor as well, it’s interesting that David Brooks seems to think that raising the gas tax is more progressive than the SCHIP program. He must be correlating SUV ownership to wealth, or something.)
  • Cut off funding to some of the worst enemies we have in this world, who are made a little richerGas3
    every time we top off the tank.
  • Push us toward alternative fuels that are not only strategically smarter, in terms of making us less dependent, but much, much friendlier to this endangered orb. It would do this partly by making gasoline less marketable, but it would also…
  • Provide a lucrative new revenue stream to — take your pick — pay for the war, fund our neglected infrastructure, build public transportation (I’ll take light rail, please) and develop better fuels. My pick would be all of the above, if the stream were big enough.

I did not arrive there by myself. I was influenced by an array of other writers, who have hit this theme again and again over the last couple of years.

To answer the question asked by Jimmy Rabbite of prospective band members in "The Commitments," here are my influences, and links to their works:

Robert J. Samuelson
As the economist in the bunch, he presents the idea most credibly, thoroughly and convincingly. If a guy like Samuelson were against the idea, I’d be worried. His being for it gives me confidence in something that I arrive at in a more intuitive manner.

  • An Oil Habit America Cannot Break — October 18, 2006 —…Our main energy problem is our huge dependence on imported oil. For years, some remedies have been obvious: Tax oil heavily to spur Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and to drive a bit less, raise sharply the government’s fuel economy standards so those vehicles are available, and allow more oil and gas drilling. In recent years, we’ve done none of these things. It’s doubtful we will anytime soon…
  • Greenhouse Guessing — November 10, 2006 — …In rich democracies, policies that might curb greenhouse gases require politicians and the public to act in exceptionallyGas2
    "enlightened" (read: "unrealistic") ways. They have to accept "pain" now for benefits that won’t materialize for decades, probably after they’re dead. For example, we could adopt a steep gasoline tax and much tougher fuel economy standards for vehicles. In time, that might limit emissions (personally, I favor this on national security grounds). Absent some crisis, politicians usually won’t impose — and the public won’t accept — burdens without corresponding benefits…
  • Seven Tough Choices We Will Not Make — January 17, 2007 — …Enact an energy tax equivalent to $2 a gallon on gasoline — introduced over six years, or about 33 cents annually. The purpose: to increase tax revenue and induce Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles….
  • Blindness on Biofuels — January 24, 2007 — …The great danger of the biofuels craze is that it will divert us from stronger steps to limit dependence on foreign oil: higher fuel taxes to prod Americans to buy more gasoline-efficient vehicles and tougher federal fuel economy standards to force auto companies to produce them. True, Bush supports tougher — but unspecified — fuel economy standards. But the implied increase above today’s 27.5 miles per gallon for cars is modest, because the administration expects gasoline savings from biofuels to be triple those from higher fuel economy standards….
  • A Full Tank of Hypocrisy — May 30, 2007 — …Today’s higher gasoline prices mostly reflect supply and demand. "Holiday travelers ignoring fuel costs," headlined USA Today before the Memorial Day weekend. Gasoline demand is up almost 2 percent from 2006 levels. Meanwhile, gasoline supplies have tightened. More refineries than usual shut this spring for repairs — some outages planned, some not (from accidents or dangerous conditions). In April and May, refineries normally operate well above 90 percent of capacity; in 2007, the operating rate was about 89 percent. Imports also declined for many reasons: higher demand in Europe; refinery problems in Venezuela; more gasoline demand from Nigeria. It’s true that oil companies will reap eye-popping profits from high prices. Still, the logic that steep prices, imposed by the market or by taxes, will encourage energy conservation is irrefutable. At the least, high prices would curb the growth of greenhouse gases and oil imports….
  • Prius Politics — July 25, 2007 — …But we’ve got to start somewhere

13 thoughts on “I don’t deserve the credit

  1. weldon VII

    But Brad, you do deserve the credit. You brought it up here.
    And how could it be a bad idea when a bunch of writers, and even one economist, think it’s just the thing.
    But do any of those academes actually operate a business?
    And what does Spurrier think? How will the Meter Santa be able to operate when everyone leaves the car at home?

  2. Doug Ross

    An economist is someone who predicts the future and then provides statistical proof of why he was wrong after the fact.
    Some things require basic logic – raising the price of gas artificially would devastate the economy: Instant inflation of the price of all goods and services; crippling impact on small businesses; a huge lag in the abaility of alternative fuels to replace oil.
    It can’t work, it won’t work, it never will be implemented.
    One better solution that doesn’t impact the economy would be to set a ten year target to phase out all non-commercial vehicles with more than 4 cylinders. Implement a multi-thousand dollar tax on vehicles that don’t get 30 mpg or better. That gives the auto industry the incentive and the time to prepare for the change in demand.
    There are similar measures that can be taken to incrementally reduce oil usage. They should be incentive based, not draconian taxation.

  3. weldon VII

    No, Wally, it was a horrible idea then, and it’s still a horrible idea.
    It’s such a bad idea it’s Jimmy Carterish.
    Carter’s the guy that ran mortgage rates up to 13 percent to break us of our tendency to get into debt.
    Guess what? For a couple of years, almost nobody bought a house. And the marvelous cash economy Carter envisioned never even came close to happening.

  4. bill

    Jimmy Carter was the greatest president of all time;He had Cecil Taylor(one of America’s greatest living musicians)do a concert at the White House.If you want to talk numbers,I’ll go with 97 piano keys.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Jimmy was definitely hep, no doubt about it. Remember when that was the way Dan Akroyd portrayed him on SNL?
    97 piano keys? What’s that, like, an extra octave?
    Phillip would know…

  6. bill

    A Bosendorfer piano.They come in 88,92,and 97.
    The extra keys are at the bass end.Paul played one on “Let it Be”.Not sure which version.
    They can handle some dramatic banging.
    Dan was of my faves.Really miss Guilda.Loved her one woman show.

  7. weldon VII

    Less is in some ways more, Brad, particularly when you’re playing golf. But I wouldn’t let Jerry Brown caddy for me.
    Bill, thanks for the key info on the Bosendorfer. Many’s the moment I’ve dreamed of having one. Never heard about the extra keys.
    Once upon a time, 15 years ago probably, I played a Bosendorfer or a Bluthner, can’t remember which, at Rich’s in Columbia. Every note sounded like a bell ringing. But it had a $20,000 price tag.
    I had to settle for a 5′-2″ Knabe. Well-worn hammers give it a sharp sound, suitable for bass banging. My “Let I Be” sounds more like Leon Russell than the Beatles.
    Come to think of it, my “Amazing Grace” sounds more like Leon Russell than the Beatles.
    Slip-note boogie, that’s me.

  8. bud

    Oil closed above $83/barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile exchange. There’s no explaination for it other than the fact that world wide oil supplies are peaking. The slightest political turmoil or a bad hurricane could send it soaring past $100. A cold winter could devastate many families with high heating bills. Gasoline will almost certainly exceed $4/gallon next summer. And yet the starry-eyed libertarians continue to fight even a modest attempt by government to promote alternative energy. Perhaps a severe recession will wake people up. It’s coming.

  9. weldon VII

    But Bud, why will we need Brad’s tax if prices go there on their own?
    Actually, too, my eyes are kind of tired. Starry-eyed sounds pretty good.

  10. Doug Ross

    A 30-40% tax increase on gas is far from a modest attempt. It would be an economic disaster.
    Incentives are the best way to go, not punitive efforts based on “we’ll tax them into doing things our way”. Won’t work.

  11. R J

    I have a friend who would pay $25 dollars a gallon for gas (he can afford it) as long as he did’nt see your bumper in front of him. He could care less when he gets a speeding ticket or sited for crossing in and out a commuter lane. He post his own bond with the DMV (from his company that does such things) so he cares less about his car insurance rates going up. My point is why punish the majority with taxes they can’t afford to pay when a minority is in the wing that could care less.


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