1984

Just remember: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is a Republican congressman that President Barack Hussein Obama brought into his Administration to provide the illusion of bipartisanship.


Transportation chief eyes taxing miles driven


LaHood’s says current gasoline tax not enough to fund infrastructure

WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn — an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation’s transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled,” the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.

But how would they know how many miles we’ve driven? Are we going to have to report our odometer readings every week? Nope, that’s not how they’d do it; George Orwell was prescient!

A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it’s an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens.

Now, if we had to simply report our odometer readings, someone would very quickly come up with a device which would disconnect your odometer every other trip, so you’d show some mileage, but not have to report all of it, and I can guarantee you that I’d install such a device on my vehicles. As for a GPS device, I’d fabricate some sort of quick disconnect, so that I could remove it and reinstall it, to under-report my mileage.

But this is the kind of Big Brother intrusion for which Americans will not stand.

The system expected to be recommended would require all motor vehicles to ne equipped with a GPS system, complete with a transponder and other equipment, to enable Big Brother to record how many miles the vehicle was driven, at what hours, and on what roads.

Rob Atkinson, president of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, which is developing the guidelines, said that privacy fears are based on perceptions, not reality, and that such devices would record the information, not upload it, and the only information uploaded to Big Brother would be the tax owed. No worries, mate, Big Brother wouldn’t dream of using the information to track your movements, send you speeding tickets, or check where you were parked overnight in a divorce case. They’d never try to correlate whether you actually drove to church on Sundays, to see if the $2,675 you claimed as a charitable deduction on your Form 1040 was realistic.

We can trust them. After all, they’re from the government, and they’re here to help us!

19 Comments

  1. I’m puzzled by this; it seems like it would in effect penalize people who are driving high-mileage fuel-efficient vehicles, by causing them to pay more tax than they already do.

    I can see the argument that mileage driven is a better proxy for effect on the roads than gasoline purchased; but if that’s what we’re trying to get at, shouldn’t we also be incorporating vehicle weight?

  2. I don’t get the GPS chips. You don’t need to rely on odometer reporting either. It would be less intrusive and less expensive to check odometer readings at annual inspections. (And I don’t know how many people would use Dana’s means of avoiding the tax – for most people, I suspect the cost and added effort to install such a device would not be worth the money saved, so it’s only the hard-core anti-tax crowd that would do such a thing.)

    Aphrael, unless someone is intentionally driving more because they own a fuel-efficient car, it shouldn’t have that effect. But yeah, they could easily incorporate the car type into the tax calculation – they already do that for the annual car tax here.

    Yorkshire, I hear methane’s damaging to the atmosphere too. Maybe they should monitor our bean consumption :)

  3. Aphrael: one of the suggestions in the cited article would be that the tax could be adjusted due to vehicle weight.

    Jeff: if the odometer were checked once a year, then people would owe the tax just once a year. If you drive 20,000 miles a year, using a vehicle averaging 20 miles per gallon, you are currently paying $184 a year in federal gasoline tax. But the feds don’t think that’s enough, so such a person would be hit with a higher tax, due all at once.

    In Pennsylvania, that theoretical person is also paying $312 in Pennsylvania gasoline taxes, and while Pennsylvania’s gasoline taxes are higher than most states — even though our roads are in far worse shape! — most states have higher fuel tax rates than the federal government.

  4. Dana, that’s true, but we also pay the car tax just once a year. Couldn’t the mileage tax just be added on to that? Or does PA not have a car tax?

  5. Jeff, one of the problems with that is that you hit people for a sizable chunk of money all at once.

    However, I can think of one very good reason to do it. Our government likes to hide taxes, and taxes on gasoline are at least semi-hidden. Oh, you can find the tax rates easily enough, but the number of stations that have the signs you used to see — I’m showing my age here — “Price includes 45¢ per gallon in taxes” is getting very small.

    People blame EXXon for the high price of fuel, which is just how politicians like it, but whe I saw the sign at Turkey Hill this morning, telling me that regular cost $1.979 per gallon, I knew that 49.6¢ of that, right at a quarter of the total, were federal and state fuel taxes, and there are more taxes hidden within the remainder.

    If we had to pony up once a year, then maybe people would start to see just how much they really are being taxed.

  6. If we had to pony up once a year, then maybe people would start to see just how much they really are being taxed.

    THere would be a massive tax revolt if we had to pay our state and fed income tax in January. With withholding, oh, it’s a small amount, but that amount can be a high four figure to low five figure amount and people would be screaming if they were all given a $3K to $15K bill at one time and given 30 days to pay up.

    In PA we have the mechanics relief act, otherwise known as the yearly inspection. (It had been twice yearly) and we have the emissions test, and we have yearly registration. The cheapest you will get away with this is about $100, but figure they’ll find something to keep this at around $500.

  7. This is also yet another way of punishing people who do not live in places with mass transit (although, I’m assuming, there may be some tax added to that, too). I commute to Dallas on a regular basis (about 100 miles round trip) for work. That’s not uncommon in Texas.

  8. so it’s only the hard-core anti-tax crowd that would do such a thing.

    After this week’s budget debacle in Cali, we are now collectively known as The Hard-Core Anti Tax crowd. Of course after seeing the vehicle license fee rise from the current level of 0.65 percent of the value of the car to 1.15 percent of the value, who can afford to drive?

    Hopefully they will simply run out of things to tax (aka revenue increase)

  9. Mr Romans: We are complaining about the deficit not because taxes are too low — they are too high, as far as I am concerned — but because spending is so high.

  10. Maybe they should monitor our bean consumption. Jeff

    That scenario has already been portrayed in the documentary “Blazing Saddles” although that those who saw the ‘wussified’ ‘edited for television’ missed this critical scene. It was a gas.

  11. Poor examples, Phoe. Your first link indicates that taxes in the United States are only 11.2% of GDP, yet that’s clearly wrong; it doesn’t include all federal taxes. For as many times as you’ve complained that the Social Security payroll tax isn’t included when I note the federal income tax burden falls primarily on the top ten percent of earners, your source says, directly:

    Tax revenue refers to compulsory transfers to the central government for public purposes. Certain compulsory transfers such as fines, penalties, and most social security contributions are excluded. Refunds and corrections of erroneously collected tax revenue are treated as negative revenue.

    I’d guess that it also does not include corporate income taxes, which people like to forget about — after all, it’s just taxing those wicked old corporations, dontcha know — but are a tax burden passed down to the final consumer in the end price of the goods and services provided by corporations.

    Your second graph has the United States spending 4.08% of GDP on the military, which is about right, but so what: the defense of the United States and its interests around the world is the first duty of the federal government. You’re right about one thing, though: we probably spend too little on the military.

    Were I to become Tsar and Autocrat of the United States, I’d have the budget balanced in a year, and have much lower taxes to boot. All I’d have to do is put in place one rule: there will be no direct payments to individuals for anything other than salaries for work performed, and fees for services provided. Everything else goes. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

  12. Is the goal of taxation the raising of revenue or the control of peoples’ lives?

    The Radical Aristocracy is made up of a bunch of authoritarian busybodies who would like to dictate how others will live their lives. They practice the same arrogance and hypocrisy of the members of the Soviet nomenklatura and the former crowd identified with the statment let them eat cake. The latter bunch did not come to a good end.

    In any time of crisis, the snake oil merchants do well and trendiness trumps tradition. We saw this last November.

    There are a variety of missteps that the New Aristocrats may make that will raise the political temperature well beyond the boiling point and into the area of superheat.

    This latest bit of idiocy may be temporarily withdrawn but the angry reaction that it drew as a mere proposal should send a warning to our would-be masters.

  13. I have hesitantly used unemployment compensation in the past. I tried to use it this time, but hit a snafu. This is the only government “charity” I can hesitantly support. Businesses pay a tax to the system on each employee’s income to keep unemployment compensation afloat, so there is the idea the employee’s income is already paying for unemployment checks.

    Social security contributions? No way, that’s a tax. 7.5 pc tax to the employee and an additional 7.5 pc tax to the employer. Or 15 pc tax to the self-employed. And there is no exemption, such as being married or having kids or anything. It’s taken off the top. Then a couple decades ago, the medicare tax was separated out. That’s another approaching 2 pc right off the top. And in the 90s, I worked for a PA company and paid $15 a year in “privilege to work” taxes for the “privilege to work” in PA, despite the fact I never left central Ohio.

    And I don’t know exactly what the gasoline tax is in Ohio, but the fed/state combined is over 46 cents per gallon. And there is a sales tax (7 pc here) on top of it because gasoline is not food. So our $1.90 a gallon gasoline has 58 cents tax on each gallon. That’s approaching 1/3 the cost in taxes alone.

    And let’s not forget the death tax. If you own a business worth more than a mil, and you up and die, the government collects half its value in taxes. So, try to leave a small business to your next-of-kin and they have to sell it just to pay the tax on it. There goes the business and the jobs tied to it and the benefit to the area that it takes to the business graveyard.

    You are taxed for your income. Then you are taxed for everything you buy. Then you are taxed for being dead. And the pre-tax prices of goods you buy are inflated because business has to recoup its tax dollars. So, 1/3 of your income is lost before you even get it. Then 1/3 of your remaining income is lost to taxes as you pay to live. Your income is reduced to 4/9 its capacity just through taxes. And this is for middle class. The “rich” lose half their buying power before buying anything and 1/3 their buying power when they do buy anything. So, the “rich” only get 33 cents buying power for every dollar they earn.

    Anyone who considers that “fair” is an idiot.

  14. Some folks are always eager to impose a tax that they will not have to pay. The income tax fell only on the ‘rich’ in the very beginning.

    There are always advocates for ‘sin taxes’ among the allegedly ‘pure of heart’.

    How many would like to return to the pre-1776 tax rates?

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