Trading essential liberties for… assisting with taxation?!

[via Drudge Report]

Newsday reports that President Obama’s Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, “says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn”.  You can read the article here.

I know that I do not have a government job, so perhaps these things are above me, but aren’t those two things tied together for the most part?  So there are only two possible reasons for an idea like this, revenue and control, and we should not like either one of them.

Because of shortfalls in gas-tax revenues caused by the higher prices and shortages as well as the general economic slowdown, the government has raised less money to fund road projects.  Take note of something here: we regular people responded to the tighter economic times by tightening our belts and making do with less and I am sure that everyone reading this has their own examples.  But government simply responds to their shortfall by finding new ways to get it from, you guessed it, us!  So while Mr LaHood self-congratulatorily gushes that the new administration is  “thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America”, on this most basic issue I would argue for the wisdom of thinking a little more inside the box during these times.  We do with less, you do with less.

Let’s take a practical look at the results of this proposed revenue stream adjustment.  Right now the tax is based upon the amount of gas you use, so people who are driving older gas guzzlers are paying more in taxes then those driving more fuel efficient cars.  This change would eliminate that, arguably discouraging people from moving to more fuel efficient vehicles.  This change actually strikes me as a coldly calculated hedge against people moving to more fuel efficient cars.  What better way to protect your revenue stream from more green engines than to move over to raw mileage as your metric for taxation?

So, back to the issue of taxing based up on mileage.  You can make the case that basing it on raw miles is reasonable.  After all, those people are using the roads more and one can argue that they should pay more for that increased wear and tear (putting aside vehicle weight).  The question really becomes: how does government implement a Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT)?

A blue-ribbon national transportation commission is expected to release a report next week recommending a VMT.

The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.

The device would tally how much tax motorists owed depending upon their road use. Motorists would pay the amount owed when it was downloaded, probably at gas stations at first, but an alternative eventually would be needed.

I wonder if they teach that in those presitigious Schools of Government.  “When you want to get something odious passed, always convene a ‘Blue Ribbon’ panel.”   A spokesman for something called the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, Rob Atkinson, dismissed any privacy concerns and said “moving to a national VMT would take about a decade”:

Privacy concerns are based more on perception than any actual risk, Atkinson said. The satellite information would be beamed one way to the car and driving information would be contained within the device on the car, with the amount of the tax due the only information that’s downloaded, he said.

The article reports that a VMT proposal in Massachussetts had “drawn complaints from drivers who say it’s an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens”.  I have to agree.  Anyone who has never read George Orwell’s 1984 needs to go get it right now, read it, then come back and comment on this entry with your thoughts. 

I just do not like this GPS tracking idea one bit.  Am I alone on this?

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