Investor’s Magazine: Hooray for Highways! Boo for Gas Taxes!

The Investor’s Business Daily has written an editorial extolling the virtues of wider freeways and lower gas taxes. It’s a great piece of car culture thinking from the last century. Taken with State Farm’s advertisement bashing bike commuters as poorly dressed losers, it really shows how far we still have to go.

At issue is the legislative package of Assemblyman Mike Feuer who’s seeking to make it easier for municipalities and counties to raise their own funds and not have to rely on the state and federal government. IBD completely misunderstands the issue and makes matters worse by backing up their old school opinions with incorrect "facts."

Let’s examine some of the highlights of the editorial.

What’s worse, they call it a "climate change mitigation and adaptation fee" – that is, a tax levied to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist and probably won’t happen.

Nice! Start off by denying global warming. That’s going to win you some mainstream approval…in parts of rural Oklahoma…

Feuer’s bill gives the Los Angeles MTA the option of adding another 9 cents a gallon to the layers of taxes already levied on gasoline or hiking the annual vehicle registration fee by $90. Trucks, SUVs and cars that have high greenhouse gas emissions would be hit with a higher levy.

Angelenos who are both well-off and environmentally conscious will be happy to pay Feuer’s tax if it helps them assuage their guilt for driving luxurious cars. He can expect their support should his bill pass the Legislature and make it to the ballot as intended.

So the people who would have to pay for the fee could be expected to support it. What a dastardly plan, taxing people who don’t mind paying for it.

But neither they nor those of lesser means should be paying this tax. Thanks to soaring gasoline prices, Sacramento, where Feuer and his fellow Democrats have proposed more than $25 billion in tax hikes so far this year, already is awash in fuel-tax revenue.

Now I’m confused. First off, I’m not really worried about poor people having to pay extra fees on their luxury cars and SUV’s. Second, gas prices are going up with or without a fuel tax increase why not capture some of that money for the public good?

Third, unfortunately people of means seem to, as a whole, be unwilling to take transit yet. The funds generated by a gas tax will go in to transit, helping the people of lesser means who won’t be able to afford luxury cars anymore because of registration fees.  And does the Investor’s Business Daily really think that rich, environmentally concious people are really going to outvote people of lesser means?

Last, the funds generated by Feuer’s proposals would go directly to Metro and local authorities. Sacramento won’t see a dime of it. Nice red herring.

Feuer, who also has proposed increasing the car tax on heavier autos with higher carbon dioxide emissions, is right when he says the people of Los Angeles are fed up with traffic congestion. What they need, however, are more roads, not mindless policy that will drain their wallets for little in return.

A better solution is to use every cent of local, state and federal fuel tax revenues on real road projects. As it is now, a large portion of fuel taxes are wasted on expenditures that aren’t related to auto travel. It’s a dishonest way to run a government at any level.

Let’s get this straight. The Investor’s Business Daily, who just expressed concern for people of lesser means is now advocating taking all gas tax funds dedicated to transit and putting them towards road widenings. Then, it ends its editorial by calling government dishonest for using gas tax funds for things other than car driving.

Ok, let’s talk about honesty. Let’s assume that IBD has never heard of induced demand, has no idea that transit programs provide a benefit for automobile users by taking drivers off the street, doesn’t know that gas tax funds also provide for safer sidewalks and bike lanes, and doesn’t even know that 30% of funds generated for Metro will go into road widening projects.

By pretending to care about the plight of people of lesser incomes, before arguing to cut transit subsidies and funds for expansion is a dishonest way to run a magazine at any level.

  • Simon

    God that was horrible.

    My least favorite appeal is “more roads.”

    I’ve talked to people around LA and when they say that, I ask, okay, where? And then they’re stumped because they haven’t thought it through. We can’t even widen a freeway without ten years of lawsuits and demolishing fifty homes. Are we suddenly gonna be able to build new roads everywhere?

    How would these new roads deal with the fact that a lot of people commute down the current roads because, oh, I dunno, that’s the road that’s going where they all need to go?

    The other insane thought is double-decking the freeway, which I’m sure after we spend fifty billion on that and all our cars die going in circles up a giant ramp two-hundred feet in the air, we’ll quickly find that the roads are still completely clogged. Just amazing.

  • I agree with the IBD we need more roads to help people drive less.

    In unrelated news, I’m going on a diet. You see, none of my clothes fit anymore because I eat too much. What I’m going to do is buy bigger clothes. That way I’ll fit into my clothes again. What a diet!

  • It’s just mind blowing to me that anyone with any sense of economics, scarcity, supply and demand, goods movement, etc. can support the private single person automobile as an efficient mode of passenger transport.

    It’s funny how the industrial revolution created the concept of mass production, which allowed the personal private automobile to be produced, which killed off mass transport, which is based on many of the same theories as mass production. Advocating the personal private automobile as an efficient mode of transportation for millions of people is the same as claiming that millions of products are best manufactured by a single craftsman.

    It’s a really strange offshoot of capitalism that doesn’t make much sense, and I think it’s all based on the fallacy that private cars offer “freedom” and “privacy”. Whether you’re crowded on a train with other people or crowded on a highway with other people, you’re still just part of a long line of sheep going from their homes to work and back again. And privacy? Please, you don’t think we can see you picking your nose and eating your boogers in your car? Those windows are made of transparent glass. It’s a false sense of privacy my friends!

  • I think the car is less of a transportation device, and more of a means to make americans spend lots of money and energy as rapidly as possible.

    If moving people was what we cared about, mass transit would be the biggest game in town. It speaks more to the ideas of industrialization and mass production: efficiency, uniformity, large quantities.

    Cars, however, are all about profligate waste and excess. The sad fact is, without that waste and excess, most of modern American life wouldn’t be what it is. If we made bread at home instead of buying it at the store, or took the train instead of drive, or generally carried on as most people around the world carry on – there would be a hell of a lot less capital sloshing around this country.

    I think the idea of Americans be de-incentivized to drive scares the crap out of people making lots of money off of us driving.

  • I totally agree ubrayj. Cars were truly the catalyst for the consumer culture in America, just as much as mass production, if not more so.


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