Monday, June 16, 2008

Raise the Gas Tax!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm a big proponent of increasing the tax on gas, which probably puts me in a very small minority, but hear me out. I just heard a political commercial on the radio slamming the gas tax, but as with most political commercials, it plays on people's fears and ignorance of basic economics. I so very much wish our schools would better educate our youth on how economics really works.

First, consider this: taxpayers are paying to subsidize alternative forms of energy. You're paying to buy other people's bio-fuels. You're paying so others can use solar energy, or wind energy, and all sorts of ideas. Do you know why? It's because that's the only way they can compete against "cheap oil."

Now if we increased the tax on oil, prices would go up, and we'd no longer have to subsidize alternative energy sources. Sure, you might have to pay a bit more on oil, but at least you could stop paying subsidizes for other people's benefit.

But you know, I'm not really convinced it would drive prices up all that much. Oil is a commodity, and the issues of supply and demand are very much alive. If you suddenly add a dollar per gallon tax, it'll likely hurt in the short term, but in the long term, there's still a bunch of oil that oil companies want to sell--that they need to sell--so how do they do that? By lowering the prices they sell the oil for in the first place until--all else being equal--prices fall back down to where they would have gone without the tax.

There's been talk about taxing oil company's "windfall profits," but isn't that just a backward way of letting the oil companies collect the tax for the federal government anyhow? Instead of just saying, "Hey, let's let the feds tax us one buck per gallon," we'd rather say, "Hey, let's have the oil companies charge us an extra buck per gallon, then make the oil companies give the money to the feds."

Cut out the middle man--just tax the consumer directly instead of these indirect taxes that frankly stink of anti-capitalism. You start taking money from oil companies, legally acquired, just because it's the popular thing to do, they may not be inclined to open up more oil fields or pump the fields they have very hard, then where will that leave you?

Though honestly, I don't think it's the oil companies necessarily that are responsible for the surprising surge in oil prices recently. A lot of the recent rise, I believe, is part of a commodities bubble. Everyone's running around saying "this time, it's different." Yeah, I heard that during the dot com boom and the real estate boom as well. There's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.... Now there are some very good reasons why commodity prices have been rising, and in the long run, I do believe prices are going to rise and continue to rise, but the recent spike in oil prices I do not think is sustainable. I think a lot of speculators are driving up prices, and a lot of them will end up losing a lot of money when prices go down again.

And the folks who I think are making the most profit from high oil prices are the people who actually own the physical commodities at their source--not the oil companies that just drill the oil, not the companies that refine the oil, and not the retailers who sell you the oil. It's the folks who own the land the oil comes from, such as our good buddies in the Middle East.

Frankly, I'd rather a have a one dollar tax by our federal government than sending the buck to the mid-east and who knows what happens with it then. If oil prices are going to be artificially high, I'd prefer the money going to the feds than to oil companies or mid-east terrorists, but that's just me. *shrug*

If I were a benevolent dictator, I'd start increasing gas taxes immediately. I probably wouldn't bump it up to a dollar per gallon overnight--that would cause unnecessary pain, but a one-cent increase every month for 100 months would get the same results in a more gradual, easier-to-deal with manner. High gas prices would help increase research into more efficient vehicles and alternative fuels without having to subsidize them, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, take money out of the hands of oil companies and mid-east dictators, and perhaps help to better fund roads, education, health care, and more.

If you love America, you should support a gas tax! =)

I'd even go so far as require minimum gas prices such as $3/gallon, that will increase over time. No matter how low the price of oil goes, require people to pay at least a certain amount for gas to insure those alternative sources of fuel and improved fuel-efficient cars continue being researched and developed. For a lot of companies researching how to make fuel-efficient vehicles or developing alternative sources of energy, they could get hosed if prices fall too much or too quickly, and minimum price supports can help insure they'll still be in business for years to come.

And.... late breaking news.... French fries are NOT, I repeat, are NOT made in France. *shaking head* Trust no one.

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