I understand the appeal of a Pigou tax to counter the negative effects of gasoline use/carbon output. Theoretically, it’s perfect because it puts the burden on the user creating the problem, which is where it should be. In practice, I see no reason to trust politicians to stay within the bounds of the plan and not dip a finger or shovel into the funds. For example:
President Bush spoke out Thursday against increasing the gasoline tax, an idea being discussed as a potential part of a new Congressional plan to shore up the nation’s bridges after the deadly collapse in Minneapolis.
I get the idea that those who use the road would be paying for the road. That’s fine, except why should bridges be federal expenditures? So why should a national gas tax, collected and managed by the Congress, be used in this capacity? And isn’t a gas tax supposed to offset the negative environmental outcomes of burning gasoline?
Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, suggested this week that a tax increase might be needed to finance a proposed trust fund to repair bridges in the Federal Highway System, [sic] A large percentage of the bridges have been identified as having structural problems.
The key here is that, under current Congressional “leadership”, a large percentage of bridges managed by the federal government have uncorrected structural problems. The same legislative body that allowed this situation to develop without adequate (though, not necessarily appropriate) funding is somehow competent to manage a new influx of cash. Gotcha. I certainly trust the Congress to spend increased gas taxes where they’re needed. It’ll be just like shoring up Social Security with the trust fund receipts.
On an amusing side note, President Bush is certainly bold:
Asked about the gasoline proposal, which could amount to an increase of 5 cents a gallon under schemes floating around Congress, Mr. Bush said, “Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.”
More than six years in and he’s finally suggesting that Congress examine how it sets priorities. It’s not like he could’ve vetoed any excessive spending and request that it be redirected to infrastructure. (Again, I’m only conceding that the federal government is involved in infrastructure, not that it should be involved.) No, he’s solely the tool of Congress to approve what they approve.
Or he could examine how he sets priorities. If I recall correctly, and I do, several years ago President Bush was busy demanding that the Congress pass a bigoted constitutional amendment. Apparently hating gays is a higher priority than preventing bridges from falling down.