Why We Need a Higher Gas Tax
In an era of unprecedented government spending and economic instability, it would seem that the idea of an increase in the federally mandated gas tax would be less than popular. According to many economists and this article from BusinessWeek, the only way to get the American people on board with fuel efficiency and reducing impact on the environment is to hike up the gas prices. Think about it. When gas was above $4 a gallon this summer, people were forced to think about their driving habits and what kind of car they actually drive. Frivolous buying of an SUV just because it looked good and was big enough for their occasional load of 2x4's wasn't good enough. When you make something cost its true cost, you start seeing changes. Factor in our indirect funding of Middle Eastern dictators, and the impact on the environment and gas seems to cost a little more than $2 a gallon.
We gripe and complain about how much gas costs, but we still pay the least of any country in the entire world. Think about how much money the federal government could make if even a $0.25 cent tax was implemented. Then, take that money and put it towards a few more important things, such as alternative energy, reviving the slumping economy, or improving healthcare. This may be a relative oversimplification of the concept, but imagine what could be done.
Here's the problem: what politician wants to stake his political career on raising gas taxes? In Boston, a recent proposal to hike the states' gas tax was swiftly shut down, as lawmakers said that people had other things to worry about, like keeping their homes. Of course, there are more pressing matters at hand right now, but we keep harping on "going green", while continuing to drive our huge SUV's and trucks. Hey gas is cheap right now, so who cares? I'm sure that if you tell the general public that you are imposing a higher gas tax, more than enough people will call for your head. But we need to think about the long term here.
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, is a vocal advocate of such a plan. But he is only one opinion. Popular support is key, obviously, and in these economic times I doubt things will change any time soon.