Gas Tax Gouging

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Imagine a 40 percent tax on food – or some other essential.

People would be out in the streets.

Such a tax would be two things that Americans generally don’t like – disproportionate and regressive. A tax that is both obnoxiously high – and hits those least able to absorb the blow (middle and working class people) the hardest. It’s not cool to hammer people excessively. It smacks of bullying.

So, what is it with the gas tax?

Gas taxes, actually. There are federal motor fuels taxes, state motor fuels taxes – and in some parts of the country, local taxes piled on top of that. 

Motor fuels taxes are among the most regressive taxes ever ginned up – as high as 67.1 cents per gallon (CA) and typically around 40 cents per gallon nationwide.

Before the economy began to tank, when gas was still under $2 per gallon for regular unleaded, roughly 25-40 percent of the price you paid was purely tax. In some cases (CA, MA, IL and other states that have motor fuels taxes above 60 cents per gallon) it was closer to 45 percent.

It’s true the percentages have gone down – but that’s only because the price of fuel has gone up. You may be paying less tax today, in percentage terms,than you were four years ago – but you’re still paying a small fortune in taxes.

Plus the cost of the fuel.  

If you live in California, for example, and buy 15 gallons of gas each week, you’re paying about $10-$12 every week in gas taxes. That’s about $500 per year – just for motor fuels taxes.

That ain’t chump change for most of us – especially now that the price of the gas itself is currently averaging about $1 more per gallon than it cost around 2006.

That’s bad enough, but here’s the real point:  

Unlike, say, the punitively high taxes on cigarettes, gasoline taxes are unavoidable. Any smoker can choose not to smoke – and thereby avoid the tax. But most of us who drive have to drive. We can no more dodge gas taxes than we can income taxes. And even if we don’t drive at all, everything we have to buy to live gets shipped by vehicles – which burn gas. And whose owners pay taxes – which are factored into the final price they charge us. 

It’s why gas taxes are so crippling. They literally affect every nook and cranny of the economy. They are one of the major “drivers” of increased costs for everyone who isn’t a Ted Kazcynski-like hermit living 100 percent off the grid.     

Greenies like high gas taxes because they want to discourage driving. At least, the driving of others. Al Gore will not be giving up the keys to his Escalade. (Check him out in his movie; they forgot to edit out the scene where he’s lecturing us about consuming while behind the wheel of his 15 MPG Caddy). 

Politicians like gas taxes because they are sneaky. Unlike income taxes and so on, they are much less visible. The tax is folded into the price of the fuel – not added afterward. You never see a gas station sign that reads: Regular Unleaded $1.90 cents – Plus Tax. So people don’t notice. In fact, their ire is focused not on the extortionate government but on “Big Oil” – which never dared to rape the populace as brazenly as the government does.

Defenders point out that motor fuels taxes fund road building and maintenance. But public roads are unique in being the only vital public accommodation that depends on disproportionate, regressive taxation. Courts, public schools and parks aren’t funded by disproportionate and regressive taxes.

How come roads are treated differently? Why are they  treated as a preferential means of transport for those with more money? After all, the less you earn, the more costly it is to drive.

How is this fair?

I think there’s a case to be made for funding roads in a more equitable way. Other big ticket items in the federal budget get an annual appropriation. Why not roads? Or at least, why not Interstate highways?

Something ought to be done, at any rate. Because no matter how you may feel about encouraging (or discouraging) driving, conservation, energy dependence and so on, the blunt and ugly fact of the matter is that average Joes and Janes are the ones disproportionately hit by sky-high gas taxes.

They deserve some relief, don’t you think?

Income taxation is foul, too – but there are at least a few escape hatches left. 

Especially if your income isn’t too high; then you pay next to no federal tax. You’re still po’, if course – but at least Uncle Obama isn’t (yet) demanding that you hand over another 25-40 percent in taxes on whatever meager means you have left.

But with motor fuels taxes, that’s exactly what happens.  

The guy earning seven figures doesn’t even notice the 67.1 cents per gallon the state of California snatches from him at every fill-up. But how about the minimum wage pizza delivery guy? Bet the farm that $10-plus per gallon in taxes he pays at every fill-up matters to him

Compounding the misery, people with less money tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles. By definition, they’re not in a position to buy a new Prius hybrid. More likely than not, they’re sputtering around in some hand-me-down Hooptie that eats gas like a ’75 Pacer.

So, the gas tax is a pretty mean-spirited – and highly regressive tax. It hits those least able to cope with its burdens the hardest. 

This is why progressives favor progressive taxes on income. The rich pay more in proportion to their income than do average income people. I’m not in favor of progressivism (the new word for socialism) but I do have an idea that progressives should be able to get behind: Why not apply the same principle to taxes on essential items such as motor fuels?

Surely that would be more fair – the favorite word of all progressives?  

The fact that 99.9 percent of all progressives (the Nice Way to say, control freaks) react like a chicken just shot in the tail with a pellet gun to such a suggestion tells you all you need to know about the progressive notion of fairness.

In fact, they want the opposite – to punish average people as much as possible for clogging up their roads and using their resources. It annoys Al Gore that he can’t get to the airport (and his private Gulfstream jet) on time because the proletariat is out there on the roads getting in his way. 

That’s the key insight to make here. Gas taxes are regressive and punitive for a reason

And that reason has about as much to do with saving the planet as Al Gore lecturing us about being green from the driver’s seat of his Escalade. 

Throw it in the Woods?

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Eric you are talking about the wrong person when you say I block speeders in the left lane. I do not. I have never seen such a thing in a million driving miles. That is not to say that it does not happen but it is so seldom in my state that I never see it. It may be because the traffic is not as heavy where I usually drive.
    You also do not know skiing rules. In skiing, the person behind yeilds to the person in front no matter how fast each skier is skiing mostly because it is dangerous skiing looking behind you. The only time that the bottom person yeilds is when your run/lane is merging into another run. The fast skiers can never pass another skier until it is safe to do so. What this usually means is that the higher skier turns to an open area and as far from the bottom skier as needed to be safe. If the hill is very crowed then you can not ski very fast or they will kick you off the hill because you were making it dangerous for others. There has even been a court case where a dangerous skier was found guilty of killing another person. That is why I say that if you want to ski fast then you join a race where the block off the course to everyone else. That is the same thing that many drivers should be doing. Race on a race track not in the streets.

    It does happen on a two lane road where a driver drives slightly under the speed limit but you just sit back and relax for the seconds it takes to find a safe area to pass. My recommendation to you is to leave for your appointment a couple of minutes early and you do not have to worry about slow drivers because it will make no difference and your blood pressure will be low. If you do not agree with that then what are your trying to do by complaining about it? Are you trying to change laws or educate people or are you just a compaliner without a plan?

  2. Not to be party pooper, but ya’ll should take this shit to the forum to discuss instead of littering up all the recent comments (see bottom left of page) with his passing in the fast lane crap.

    And for the record Clover, I’ll race you any time on the mountain!

    How close are you to Virginia?

  3. No Eric I am like you. I am the fastest one our there and if someone gets in my way I bump into them and push them the he– out of the way. If they get into my way again I slash them with the edge of my sharp ski. I can not stand anyone that slows me down by a second.

    • Sigh. The care and feeding of the feeble-minded… but, let me try once more:

      Did I ever say I “bump into” other drivers – or even tailgate them? Or hint that I endorse anything remotely like that?

      Blockheads like you just don’t get it. All we ask is that you yield to faster-moving traffic. We’re not trying to dominate you; we just want you to get out of our way. We don’t tailgate; we just want to get around you. If I happened to be skiing and you were coming up behind me going faster, I’d let you pass. Common courtesy.

      But you are the Royal He. Enforcer of the Speed Limit and Judge of What Speed is Appropriate. All must defer to you.

      Now, I now that you see it as just the opposite. That “speeders” are trying to impose their driving preferences on you. But let me walk you through the difference. We don’t want anything to do with you; we just want to get around – and away – from you. If you’d simply exercise some common courtesy and show some understanding of driving etiquette by yielding when another car is trying to go faster, we’d be gone and on our way – and you’d be able t proceed at whatever pace you are comfortable with. Win-win.

      But when you refuse to yield/move right, you’re interfering with other drivers, who’d like to travel at their pace, not yours. You win, they lose. And this is why other drivers despise drivers like you.

      You’re passive-aggressive small-time Fuhrers. You’d make a great TSA agent – or goon cop.

      You can’t practice live and let live; you have a compulsion to force others to conform to you and your ways.

      I recommend you sing the song Dom posted…

  4. couple things…

    eat gas like a ’75 Pacer??? was the Pacer that fuel inefficient that the esteemed eric peters should use it as a simile of wastefull gas consumption, i’m surprised?

    also-public transportation in japan and europe vis-a-vis public transportation in the US- difference? nice clean polite japs and swedes/germans/dutch/etc. vs. the kind of people on the US busses and subways. guarentee you will pay $50 a gallon to avoid having to commune with the dregs of america on a daily basis.

    back to point: gas taxes. ridicuous way to finance the “roads”. much better would be to issue a bill to you at your yearly license renewal based on how much you drove and how heavy your vehicle.

    however the whole “tax” think is not about generating any money to cover costs but merely to create a reliable revenue stream for the gov’t so they can throw it at their various benefactors. any good “idea” about how it could be done “better” is just mental mastrubation. they don’t want better, just more. but i’m sure on some level yall understand that (but it just occurred to me)

    as to the libtard clovers take on trying to discourage gas usage so as to lower prices or somesuch (hard to tell from his ramblings) isn’t higher demand supposed to DECREASE price? and why reduce gas usage, should we reduce bread usage so as to ‘save’ wheat? gas is just another commodity, useage should be encouraged, more demand for gas, more investment in oil, drilling, shipping, selling, jobs jobs jobs. cars should be mandated to get less mileage–’75 Pacers for everyone!!!

    and finally: not listing the amount of tax in the price of a product should be illegal. when i buy a burger at wendy’s i always give them hell about the final price: “but your billboard says $2.59 and now you want $2.79 for it? what happened between the order and the cash register?!?!?! note: a pack of cigarettes in NYC costs $15, i bet the actual tobacco/paper/package/labor cost of product is no more then a buck fitty.

    • “also-public transportation in japan and europe vis-a-vis public transportation in the US- difference? nice clean polite japs and swedes/germans/dutch/etc. vs. the kind of people on the US busses and subways. guarentee you will pay $50 a gallon to avoid having to commune with the dregs of america on a daily basis.”

      I agree with you 100%, but was just throwing that idea out there.

      I always tell my wife if all the Japanese in Japan were to be replaced with Americans the place would explode.

    • The V-8 Pacer was a hog! (But to be fair, so was anything with a V-8 in the ’70s… mostly because no OD gearing or lock-up converters. My ’76 TA got something like 14 MPG when it was new…. and that was on the highway)

      100 percent right on the quality of humanity (or absence thereof) you’re dealing with Here vs. There. Worst part is you can’t even arm yourself on most US trains. Anyone remember the NY City subway shooter? Fish in a barrel. Plus, it smells.

      And Clover? What can you say…. ?

    • jaxvid you like many others here have no common sense. I do not quite understand your tax at registration time but it is close to what it would be when you pay gas tax at the pump. Little difference except at the pump you get a better idea of how efficiently you drive your vehicle and you do not have to guess or cheat on the miles you state at registration time.

      You have no idea about supply and demand. Yes if you use less wheat the price will go down but the only difference between that and oil is that wheat can be replaced. Oil disapears and wells dry up. The problem with high oil usage is that you get used to it and for a while the oil companies can keep up and then all of a sudden they can not and you will get hit with huge prices and gas lines. Tbe government is mandating more efficient vehicles which is helping some but I am sure you are against that. When oil starts to run short it takes many years to increase the efficiency of the cars that are on the road. By the way, oil just went up to $90 per barrel. It will go a lot higher with your I do not care how much I use attitude.

      • Poor old Clover! (And I’m betting you are old... as in, Depends Old. Really, really old. Smells like Vicks Vapor Rub old… .)

        Lets me axe you question, though. Do you suppose the people who build, say, jumbo jets think we are about to run out of gas, or that gas will soon be all-but-unaffordable? Howza ’bout the car industry? They plan years out and continue to invest massively in (what they clearly expect to be) a massive future market for personal transportation powered by gazzzuline. What do dis’ bees telling you, mang?

        I gibs you a hint if you axes nice.

        Gnomesayin’ ?

        • Too bad you do not know or care about any facts. From everything that I have heard, large planes are much more efficient in transporting you across the country than your car ever will be and they are doing everything possible to make the planes more efficient. They even retire good planes because they use too much fuel.

          Yes the car industry is still building gasoline engine cars. If electric would be cheaper to buid there would be millions of those built but you are then using mostly coal.

          If we had done things like Europe has done in taxes back in the 70s then we would be using millions of barrels of oil less each week. We would be sending Billions of dollars less to foreign countries. We would have already had cheaper electric cars and more efficient gasoline and diesel cars. Those taxes could have went to things like decreasing property taxes of which I think are the worst taxes out there. We could also have reducded income taxes.

          You do not care about using too much fuel because you live for today only. It is cheap now so use a lot of it. You do not care what that kind of thinking will do for us 10 years from now.

          • No, I just don’t cotton to control freak authoritarian types who want to impose their idea of what “we” should do on everyone else.

            Most of the “billions” we send to foreign countries is in the form of military equipment and so on (Big Defense being much more pernicious than Big Oil). Why, at any rate, is it a bad thing to buy oil from those who sell it for less than we could obtain it here?

            The fact that the car industry and other industries that build machinery/equipment, etc. dependent on a continued – and reasonably priced – supply of oil continue to do so – and have plans to do so for the next 20-plus years – ought to be what they call in law enforcement a “clue.”

            Like global warming, peak oil is a bogey. A stage-managed con to frighten the masses and get them to accept price manipulations and even more important, stifling edicts (for their own good, of course) issued by their Overlords.

            You’ve bought into the hype. Just don’t expect me to!

        • Ok Eric. Call me old. I will race you any time downhill skiing. Your lame speeding in a car is nothing compared to flying down the hill on two sticks at over 50 mph. By the way, it is safer too. They block off the run when you race. They do not get mad at you if you ski too fast but laugh at you if you go slow. you would rather make it dangerous for others though.

  5. I am also agaist taxes. The only thing, this may be a good one and maybe should be higher. Europe has high fuel taxes and although I do not drive over there much I would bet that there are not a lot of people driving 13 mpg pickup trucks 50 miles to work. China and India are increasing vehicles on their roads at an alarming rate. With their increased use of fuel, if we do not start to reduce fuel usage we will get charged higher prices in fuel rather than higher taxes. If we do not reduce usage then fuel price will go way past the $4.00 that we saw a couple of years ago. We would also see gas lines again. I have heard of one plan that increases fuel taxes and at the same time reduces or even gives back more money to the lower income. This is not about making people drive less it is about using less fuel. You say that the only used vehicles out there are low mileage vehciles. That will change if the trade in value of the low mpg vehicles is almost zero. People buying new vehciles will by more efficent vehciles for two reasons. They will save them more money while they own them and more money when the trade them in.
    I believe in trying to fix a problem before it happens not after. I believe in doing things that will help us reduce usage and gas lines. I do not believe in waiting to do more about fuel usage after the price goes to 5 bucks and the gas lines start.

    I am also for things that will reduce accidnets and death before they happen and not doing things that punish after the fact.

    • The “Europeans pay more for gas” argument is idiotic on two levels. First, America is not Europe. Europe has a much higher population density and more people live in urban settings and (key) have easy access to usable public transport. Most Americans do not live in cities – and even in cities, public transport is either not especially convenient or it’s expensive (and dangerous, as in Noo Yoik and DC, where assaults are common).

      Second, why should Americans emulate Europe? Is it desirable that we pay three times what we do now for fuel? That we live more like Euro-proles, huddled together in 600 sq. ft. walk-up flats and taking the buuusssssss everywhere we need to go?

      It’s startling how casually some people advocate punitive policies that would impose massive financial costs on ordinary people. How flippantly they argue for policies that impose their idea of what’s right and proper on others.

      PS: When did I ever say “the only used vehicles out there are low mileage vehicles”? You really ought to stop sniffing glue….

      • Looks like we might have some $3 a gallon gas for Christmas! -yeah

        For lack of any personal experience with any other foreign countries I’ll just use my Japan example. When I left there four years ago the gas was around $5.50 a gallon, now I’m sure it’s way higher. Anyhow, the public transportation was absolutely awesome and a pleasure to take. Public transportation there way faster than private, any day! Public transport is not an option here. We missed the bus, so to speak, when the opportunity to built that kind of infrastructure was here.

        What’s wrong with sniffing glue? -it snmell gooood

        • Japan has several major advantages over us as far as viable public transpo (by viable, I mean it’s possible to go virtually anywhere, at a reasonable cost – and usually faster than you could by car).

          First, Japan is a much smaller – and much more urban – country than the US.

          I think Virginia is bigger than Japan.

          It’s easier (and cheaper) to build a railroad net to serve a country Japan’s size vs. the entire US, or even the major portions.

          Japan is also (like Europe) an older place. 200 years ago, most of the US was empty. 200 years ago, the major cities of Japan (and Europe) were already old. When industrialization happened, their cities were already there. Here, everything happened so fast – and much more herky jerky.

          As recently as 20 years ago, Phoenix was a pretty small city; 30 years ago, DC itself only extended about 10 miles out from downtown. After that, yu were in rural farm country. I grew up there/at that time, so I can vouch for that, personally. But today, the DC “metro” area extends almost to Winchester – your neck – which is, what, 40 miles from downtown DC?

          I’m glad I was in high school and college when gas was still $1-$1.50 per gallon and a teenager could afford to own and drive a used V-8 muscle car…

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