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Uncle Sam aka Big Brother & the mileage tax

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POSTED March 9, 2009 4:17 a.m.
George Orwell must have been elected to Congress this past November.

There is growing support for a plan to tax motorists on the mileage they drive in a bid to make up for falling federal gas tax revenues as more vehicles with increased fuel efficiency go on the road every year.

Their justification is simple. The nation is getting less federal tax gas receipts at a time when there is major freeway and highway infrastructure needs going unmet. But instead of simply raising the gas tax which would accomplish their revenue goal, there are members of Congress pushing the Orwellian plan to tax us based on miles driven.

Environmentalists and liberals are cheering the idea as they believe it will force people to drive less and therefore pollute less.

To accurately track the mileage a taxpayer drives, you’d obviously need a global position system (GPS) device on the vehicle. Just think, in some bunker near Washington, D.C. one day there may be banks and banks of computers recording every move Americans make. No wonder why there were folks angry at the Bush Administration for all of the data they collected on Americans in the name of the Global War on Terror. The Bush folks didn’t go far enough.

California Senator Barbara Boxer pooh-poohs the use of GPS devices but still embraces taxing people by the miles they drive. Boxer believes taxpayers will adhere to an honor system. That sounds fair as long as taxpayers don’t have to be more honorable than members of Congress.

Besides giving Big Government another Big Brother tool, the proposed mileage tax is unfair on a number of levels.

First, the deterioration of roads and bridges has a direct correlation with the weight of the vehicles. That is why trucks are taxed higher as one truck trip can cause significantly more wear and tear than one vehicle trip.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has astutely pointed out that a single, fully loaded 18-wheeler does as much wear and tear to a road as 9,600 cars. It has everything to do with the weight to axle ratio.

Truckers, of course, pay significantly more for vehicle licenses due to the wear and tear factor. Since all of us rely on trucks for virtually every consumer good whether it is food or computers to reach us, having the true cost of most of the impact of truck wear and tear on roads dissipated among the general taxpaying populace makes sense.

One would think since heavy vehicles consume more fuel the existing federal gas tax model would mean those that drive vehicles that do the most damage pay the most so if you simply raise the basic federal gas tax you will spread the pain appropriately to those who do the most damage. It makes sense if the issue of having funds to deal with wear and tear is the real issue.

What is really driving the debate is the writing on the wall. As hybrid-electrics that can go 75 miles on one charge and switch to gas after that become feasible, a large segment of drivers in this country could go months without buying gas.
That means less money for road maintenance.

Why, though, are environmentalists jumping for joy over the mileage tax?

It’s simple. They have a multi-faceted agenda that includes more than just getting people to drive less.

A mileage tax would have a chilling impact on longer commuters in California where more drivers proportionately have already switched to more fuel efficient vehicles than the rest of the country. Environmentalists don’t want to see suburban sprawl.

No one likes taxes but everyone wants services.

However, the mileage gas tax has all the makings of once again using the tax code to dictate social changes with the added bonus of Uncle Sam becoming more like Big Brother Sam.
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