Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In Search Of Sensible Transportation Policy

by Tom Bozzo

Rant time!

I write not to bury Hillary Clinton for joining Chickenshit [*] John McCain's Gas Tax Pandering Express [**], even though she's full of it and Barack Obama is on the side of the angels. Nor do I intend to put my Dean Baker hat on in saying that even this Washington Post debunking fails to note that Obama is right that the hypothetical maximum "gift" [***] to someone who drove 3,500 miles over three months at 20 MPG would be on the order of $30. The Economists for Obama have a nice graph showing why even this is wildly optimistic. Moreover, $30 is all but rounding error in the chickenshit 'economic stimulus' payments [****], which as bright a light as George W. Bush says is in part intended as compensation for high fuel prices. I'm also inclined to deny Hillary's grab for an additional populist point for being willing to tax oil companies to pay for the gas tax holiday, since we all know what the chance such a provision would have of passing a Republican filibuster in the Senate is.

Returning to yesterday's QOTD, a question for gas-tax repeal advocates would be whether they think gas prices are "too high" by only 18.4 cents. Even rolling prices back by $1 would only be to slow the rate with which particularly auto-exposed exurbanites are getting boiled in oil. I imagine that an enterprising reporter who asked Chickenshit John or HRC why we shouldn't be subsidizing gasoline would be told (correctly) that such a thing would be madness, but you can't derive that from the fuel-affordability rhetoric.

Also largely absent from the discussion, and highlighting its essential bogusness, is any mention of structural changes to the U.S. transportation system. The Obama campaign at least devotes a paragraph to the proposition that our transportation needs go beyond greener automobiles; that's one more than HRC. Chickenshit John, who you may recall recently gained plaudits from the press for ditching his wife's jet for the Acela Express, is a famous campaigner against operating subsidies for passenger rail — subsidies which, thanks to the external costs of the alternatives, actually can make more than a little economic sense.

Substantially rebuilding the transportation system requires a lot of time and money (plus maybe some NIMBY arm-twisting), putting the project in need of early and strong political support. (The money, at least, could be obtained largely by ending the most useless parts of the DAMN WAR.) Trying to counteract the price signal that's telling us that we should reconsider the easy motoring lifestyle is worse than doing nothing.

[*] Certain elements of the left blogiverse have taken to calling McCain "Saint John" after the candidate's inability to do wrong in the eyes of the Washington press corps. Irony is dead, people! Gail Collins, who's been pretty good on the subject of late, writes:
[McCain] is fearless when it comes to delivering unpleasant news to people who are probably not going to vote for him anyway.
No reason not to say what we really think, eh?

[**] Making members of the Pigovian Tax Club cry since April, 2008!

[***] I.e., assuming the full incidence of the gas tax is on consumers and not, at least in part,
on producers and/or distributors.

[****] As Grampa Simpson might say, I didn't ask for it, don't need it, but gimme gimme gimme!

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?