Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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The Gas Tax

This post talks about the gas tax, which is supposed to fund transportation upkeep but does not. Some thoughts on this topic ...

* Forget raising the tax by any amount sufficient to have a real impact on the transportation debt. Jobs are so bad that most workers cannot absorb increases in travel cost. I live not far from an outlet mall that declined from the moment it opened, because they put it in a freeway town that didn't have enough available workforce to staff it -- and nobody could afford to drive there from anywhere else for the minimum wage offered. Everyone who has to drive to work is faced with the brutal math limiting the range within which they can afford to work, and that fluctuates with gas prices. Indeed, the people who bear the most burden from the gas tax are those who can least afford it.

* The author has at least acknowledged that raising the gas tax would create a diminishing spiral. Cities are already familiar with this from mass transit: bus fare goes up, ridership goes down, spurring higher fares in attempt to make up the difference, and so on until the system collapses or is converted to a not-for-profit basis.

* That said, attaching increases in anything to the rate of inflation is generally a sound economic premise, because that creates a slow natural rise instead of occasional sharp jumps.

* Also, we are going to run out of readily available gasoline sooner or later. We have until then to figure out some other way of moving people. It is better to do this sooner than later.

* Because driving is so tied to employment, if we simply let the driving system collapse, it will take down the economy with it. People can't work if they can't get there, and they can't drive if they can't afford to. That is a separate, but related, economic boobytrap compared to the one where cities can't afford to finance the roads. In order to salvage the economy, we must find some other way to get people to work -- or change the workforce to reduce need for travel.

* Contracting the sprawl to pull both people and jobs back toward the center of town would help with all of this. However, that would require changes in how projects are approved and funded.

* I am deeply, darkly amused to see someone else saying "bread and circuses" about modern America. The comparison is very apt.
Tags: economics
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