Why Drivers Should Love a Mileage Tax
by Byrne Hobart
A proposed gas tax led to some red faces at the White House earlier this week. Ray LaHood — the only Republican in the Obama administration — suggested it, perhaps in an effort to put the ‘tax’ back in ‘tax-and-spend’.
To the average driver, paying for something you used to get for free sounds like a bad deal. Five reasons it’s actually a great bargain instead:
1) The ‘fringe benefits’ are fantastic: part of the mileage-tax plan requires installing a global network of GPS-based car-tracking systems. There are privacy concerns, of course, and those will need to be addressed. But this plan also makes it possible to do some amazing things. From dynamic traffic maps criminal detection, this would allow the government to start many other programs. And if private companies could use the information (again, privacy is a major roadblock), they’d be able to come up with even more great uses.
2) Smug hybrid owners will have to pay their fair share: I know, I know, playing politics means playing dirty. But surely we can all agree that if gas taxes pay to fix up roads, Prius owners are getting away with highway robbery.
3) Gas-guzzling SUV drivers will still pay up, too: To be fair, SUV owners and Hummer drivers won’t see the same kind of tax hike, since they already pay more in gas taxes. But a tax increase is a tax increase, so a mileage tax will still affect them.
4) You have to pay taxes anyway — why not pay for something you use?: the Obama administrations big plans (and their anti number-fudging attitude) mean that we’re going to be paying taxes anyway. Isn’t it better to pay taxes for something that has a cost (wear-and-tear on roads, congestion, pollution) instead of paying taxes on something more beneficial?
5) You get to be the squeaky wheel: This is definitely the most important one. The ‘middle class’ didn’t become politically important until they had to start paying taxes. Drivers, as a group, don’t have anyone to speak for them (car companies and unions are another matter…). But just wait until car owners are sending extra money to the Feds. You can bet that infrastructure, congestion, and transit will become hot-button issues the minute people have to really pay for them.
So if you’re ready to form a horn-honking blockade around capitol hill, now might be the time to reconsider. Sure, you’ll owe money for every mile you drive — but you might just get more than you paid for.