Monday, April 23, 2007

Rich Guy Sez "Taxes Are Capitalism"

by Tom Bozzo

OK, so it's Michael Bloomberg, advocating a Londonesque congestion charge for driving in some parts of Manhattan. But here's how Sara Kugler of the Associated Press quoted him:
"Using economics to influence public behavior is something this country is built on — it's called capitalism," Bloomberg said. "Tax policy influences you to drill here and mine there, and grow this and live here and do that."
To think, all that class warfare for nothing.

Addendum: But seriously, folks, this post should not be read as disparaging the concept of instituting tax-like charges to encourage commuters to internalize the full costs of their choice of transportation mode. As may be discussed at greater length in a future post, undoing entrenched patterns of subsidization (some so entrenched as seemingly not to be recognized as subsidies) is key to rationalizing transportation systems for a world where neither fuel nor emissions are necessarily cheap.

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I'm still trying to figure this one out. I (would) pay $5-$7 to drive through the Holland/Lincoln Tunnel into NYC as is, and the pricing there does adjust for "congestion" times.

My desire to sell a box of books at Strand's Bookstore will be negatively impacted, as will (theoretically) their business. And don't get me started on the idea of banning delivery trucks.

If he wants to have a positive impact, the first thing to do is impose a toll on the bridges that currently do not have one; the State subsidizes Lon Gislanders public transportation usage enough already (last I checked, subway riders pay 61% of the cost of running the trains directly; the LIRR was running at 41%) and they still drive over the 59th Street bridge, or the Manhattan or Williamsburg bridges.

I quite agree with the sentiment, but the execution as it has been described would be inane, since it ignores both existing processes and "low-hanging fruit."
The charge, reportedly, would only be in effect 6 AM to 6 PM weekdays, so evening trips and weekend errands would be unaffected. I agree that it's illogical to put tolls on some of the river crossings but not others, not least since geography makes it a lot cheaper to charge tolls upon entry into Manhattan -- and the East River crossings from the Queensboro on down are all entry points into the congestion zone.

It would also seem that if successful in getting some current car commuters onto mass transit modes, there would be a complicated set of benefits and costs that would accrue to other jurisdictions. Perhaps the East River bridge toll revenue could deal with the LI transit links and the congestion charge proceeds should be spent with a more regional view.
""Using economics to influence public behavior is something this country is built on — it's called capitalism,""

Put forward on the national stage in the right way, it seems to me that this might be one of the most brilliant formulations evah.

If it sells, it sells.
If taxes are capitalism then what the hell is socialism?
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