Monday, April 28, 2008

How about rolling back the stupidity tax for the summer?

John McCain has said multiple times that he doesn't understand economics as much as he should, and after reading about his latest economic plan, I'm inclined to agree. A cornerstone of the plan is a three month repeal of the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon (and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel). There's a great article over at Wired that highlights the economic issues that this would create- it would short the government $9 billion in revenue (in a department which already has a $3 billion shortfall in funding), therefore killing highway improvement projects, which in turn means that even more people would lose jobs.

Wait- I see the genius of this plan now- more people out of work means fewer people on the roads, thus reducing the demand for gasoline, after which prices will naturally fall! My god, it's brilliant.

Sarcasm aside, this is one of the most ridiculous ideas to come out of Washington in some time. It provides no real tax relief to the average person, and as our transportation systems fall further and further into disrepair, it ends up creating more problems than it solves. Surely, no self respecting Democrat, representing a party that has said that fixing our national infrastructure should be a top priority, could support this entirely impractical political scheme? Right?

Not so fast, my friends! According to the Wall Street Journal, Senator Clinton indicated just the other day, “I would also consider a gas tax holiday, if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund.” Of course, there's no chance that Congress would support increasing revenues in one area to fund a temporary tax cut in another. McCain has indicated that he would pay for this by increasing the debt, a measure Clinton would theoretically oppose.

Here's the thing though- despite her highly qualified support for McCain's idiocy, now she's attacking Obama for not throwing his support behind the idea. Obama, to his credit, is sticking to his guns:

“We’re talking about 5 percent of your total cost of gas that you suspend for three months, which might save you a few hundred bucks that then will spike right up,” Obama said. “Now keep in mind that it will save you that if Exxon Mobil doesn’t decide, ‘We’ll just tack on another 5 percent on the current cost.’”
To my mind, Clinton is starting to show her desperation. She's anxious to separate herself from Obama in some way, while trying to show Dems that she can draw in some of the same voters that McCain does. But she's picked the wrong issue here. For starters, it's something that Bob "Viagra" Dole tried to raise unsuccessfully during the 1996 election cycle against her husband, and then backed down from because it was so amazingly unpopular with Congress. Add to that the effect more driving has on our infrastructure, and the extra burden that a loss of federal revenues would have on the already strained and suffering budgets of public transit systems across the country, and this is a no-brainer. It's bad policy that's bad for America.

I've been waiting to see some real separation in the views of the two Dems that makes me feel like we're not choosing between two automatons who agree with each other on just about everything. And I think we're starting to see it- she's gone negative like never before, and she's questioning Obama's electability, while at the same time endorsing the ideas of her potential November opposition.

I still believe that Obama is the right one for the Dems, and the right one for the country. He's a leader, and he's not out there spouting the same old rubbish. I'm not sure what else we can ask for.

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