Today, one day after April 15 when many of us have sent that check into the IRS and are feeling a little poorer, it should go without saying: No one needs a new gasoline tax.
And yet, there’s some serious talk that lawmakers in Washington could introduce a proposed new tax as early as next week.
What are they thinking?
As we all were reminded back in 2008, gas is not a luxury, but a basic necessity. To impose a new tax would be to impose the most regressive sort of tax, in which those with the least means pay the highest burden.
Low incomes, after all, do not correspond with short commutes. Even the most run down jalopy requires fuel. The average American family consumes 2,000 gallons of gasoline a year and for most of these families, gas is already a substantial expense. Some those families have cut back on vacations and impulse purchases during these hard times, but they still have to find a way to work, get the kids to school and get around town for basic errands like grocery shopping.
This argument might sound simplistic, or even quaint, were it not for the fact that just two years ago when gas prices spiked, many people were forced to choose between going to work and buying food.
Supporters of a gas tax may point to point to consumption as a choice, or argue that renewable fuels offer a multitude of alternatives to filling up at the pump.
These are foolhardy arguments. The fact is, only a small minority of folks lives close enough to their place of employment that they can walk and most of the country lacks access to the sort of door-to-door public transportation that will get them where they’re going in a timely manner.
As for alternative fuels, we’re all for them. But the only way we can see wind power working for your daily commute is if you live on the beach and can windsurf to work. More and more alternative energy is being used every day, but it will be decades before enough infrastructure is in place to make a meaningful difference. People are hurting now.
Gasoline prices have, thankfully, abated since the summer of 2008. But we still haven’t addressed the cause of that panic or adopted policies that will ensure a more steady supply of domestic oil and more predictable prices. As another summer approaches, we wait in trepidation to see what prices will do. Our energy policy still needs a lot of work.
So does our economy. Millions are out of work, working fewer hours, or earning less for their labors than they were a year ago. These people need policies that provide a little economic relief, not create more stress.