Tax By Mile Goose Steps Forward
by Eric Peters
I hate to say I told you so . . . but, yeah, I told you so.
The fuel-efficient (and planet friendly) hybrid/electric vehicles the government has been aggressively encouraging people to buy via generous (with other people’s money) manufacturer and retail subsidies/tax incentives? The ever-upticking of federal fuel efficiency mandates – set to crest 35 MPG on average less than two years from now and then, perhaps ascend to 54.5 MPG by 2025 – that were touted as a way to make driving more “affordable” for cash-strapped Americans?
It was another long con.
The object has never been to give American drivers a break, to make it less expensive to get around. It has always been to construct yet another way to fleece and control them. By pushing “efficient” cars, a new crisis has been manufactured: There’s not adequate revenue from motor fuels taxes flowing into state and county coffers because hybrid/electric cars and the latest fuel-sippy conventional cars are too efficient.
And the solution to this manufactured crisis?
Tax drivers by the mile instead.
Washington state’s Transportation Commission is pushing for exactly that – and it’s merely the opening libretto for what will inevitably become as inescapable as income and property taxes.
The “. . . move to cleaner, smarter vehicles must be accompanied by a change in the way we pay for our roads” (italics added) announces the official release accompanying pending highway funding proposals (news story here).
And the “new way” is making drivers pay for every mile they travel.
The irony? Hybrid/electric car and conventional economy car owners would pay just as much as the guy driving a 10 MPG Hummer. And they’ll all be paying through the nose.
But at least the Hummer driver gets to drive… well, a Hummer. The Prius driver is stuck with his Al Goremobile – and no “discount” for being concerned about his “footprint” or energy use.
So much for saving the planet.
If it passes, the system would begin to be put into place by 2015.
And it’s a two-fer.
Not only is it a new way to tax – and to increase taxes (people will pay more per-mile than they currently pay at the pump) it is also a way to monitor people’s movements. To know exactly how far they drive – and, potentially – when and where they drive.
Also how fast they drive there.
By real-time data transmission, via the receive/transmit capability most new cars (and most recent model cars) have had built into them. Some of this is already mandated by law. Event Data Recorders (“black boxes”) for instance. And the government is at this very moment “considering” that so-called Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications capability be made mandatory (news story here). V2V would mean all new cars continuously broadcast their location, their speed and other data to other cars in the area – ostensibly to reduce crashes due to driver inattention. Of course this data would be “open” – like Wi Fi at Starbucks – and could just as easily be received/recorded by government for purposes other than “safety.”
It is no great leap forward, in terms of technology, to have a car periodically transmit its current odometer reading – and other data – to a government server. You’d be dunned automatically, perhaps – as is already done using those “EZ Pass” electronic transponders many commuters already have in their cars, in order to not have to stop at toll booths.
But unlike EZ Pass – which you don’t have to have – in this case, you’d have no choice. Submit to government monitoring of your driving and be taxed accordingly.
Or be an outlaw.
The logic flows ineluctably. It will be so much more efficient this way. No need to go in for periodic odometer checks. Just like Smart Meters which transmit data about your electricity usage. It will all be handled seamlessly by – one can almost hear the echo of Dr. Strangelove – computers.
The plan set forth by the Washington State Transportation Commission practically drools with anticipation over the prospect of the projected $3 billion haul that could be achieved by direct mulcting of motorists as opposed to motor fuels taxes.
Other state government apparatchiks are surely drooling, too.
Bear in mind that motor fuels taxes are already extortionate. Grossly regressive and disproportionate. On average, the price of a gallon of gas includes at least 50 cents in federal/state/local taxes (see here for Congressional Budget Office breakdown). Consider that. On a purchase of 15 gallons of gas – which is the tank capacity of the typical compact car nowadays – you’re paying about $8 in taxes.
Now, they want you to pay more. A great deal more.
And not just money.
They want more than merely money.
They want power. To micromanage and control your every movement. It is of a piece with “health care” reform – which encompasses literally everything.
We have arrived at a watershed moment. These people who have arrogated virtually unlimited power are no longer the least bit shy about asserting it. Nothing is beyond their purview. Not how we live, not how how we recreate, not what we eat and drink. Not whom we hire or rent to or even whom we marry.
And soon, not even how far we drive.
If, that is, we simply accept it.
As we have already accepted altogether too many things – from “Homeland” security to genital fondling at the airport to vaginal/anal probing by the side of the road to summary executions of grampas in their garages in the name of “officer safety.”
It has got to be stopped or else – well, it’s going to continue. And, get a whole lot worse.
Simple as that.
When enough of us finally stand our grand and make it clear we’ve had enough, then they’ll back off. But not before. We’ve given them the proverbial inch – and they’ve taken miles.
It’s time to hit the brakes – or else they will step on the gas.
Eric Peters is a longtime car/bikes/Libertarian-minded journalist. His book, “Road Hogs,” came out June 2011.
Peters has been writing a weekly column about cars for almost 20 years now. He is the author of “Automotive Atrocities” and “Road Hogs” (MBI). He lives in rural SW Virginia with his wife and a polyglot crew of animals.