Monday, May 5, 2008

Week of 05/05/2008

Gas Tax Holiday Is No Break
– by David Matthews 2

Twenty dollars.

Three years ago, twenty dollars could more than fill the take of my car. It could almost do it twice.

Today I’ll be lucky if that same twenty dollars will fill up half the tank.

It’s the same car. Same driving habits, same gas tank, same gas station, same everything… except for the price of gasoline.

And even back then we were complaining about the price going up too much, too fast, and too high. And it didn’t matter how many times the neocons and other ass-kissers of the Bush Imperium whined that we the masses were making too much of a matter of it. They would whine that the price still wasn’t as high as it was back in 1981 when you “adjust for inflation”, or that the price we pay in America is miniscule compared to the burden paid by other countries, or that the record profits the oil companies have been making really aren’t “profits” when compared to “other” industries.

So let’s just go ahead and shoot these neocons red herrings right now.

(1) Comparing prices from the past “adjusted for inflation” does not excuse or justify the price spikes of today. If it was unacceptable then, it’s equally unacceptable today.

(2) Comparing the price of gas in our country to the price paid in other countries is deceptive because there are some countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela that can afford to charge pennies per gallon, and others like the countries in Europe that hit their people with two-or-three times the price of gas with taxes to pay for government services. You want to compare how much America pays versus how mush England pays? Eliminate the taxes on both sides and you’ll find that we’re paying pretty much the same.

(3) There’s nothing wrong with a company making a profit, per se, but it doesn’t help that company’s public perception when they announce RECORD profits at the same time when the public is hurting because of those higher prices. It exposes your greed. Besides, unlike the pharmaceutical companies and other industries that make higher profits, the oil companies rely on society revolving around the use of their products. You don’t see the drug companies telling people they can get all sorts of diseases simply because the treatments are so cheap. Home supply stores make money because there’s a customer reward for improving the value of their homes. The oil companies can’t make that claim.

No matter which way you look at it, the oil companies and the countries that are feeding our voracious appetite for the “black gold” are getting rich off the rise in prices. And all of the justifications in the world – from tribal fighting in Africa to refinery shutdowns to Wall Street hysteria – does not detract from the fact that the higher prices HAVE played a role in the downturn of our economy.

This is a fact. Every single economic downturn in the past few decades have ALL been preceded by a spike in energy costs. Every single one of them!

Now you would think that someone in the government would figure that one out, wouldn’t you? Know this is happening, warn people before it occurs, and then possibly do something about it BEFORE it becomes a problem. But they don’t. People like yours truly can sound the alarm but it gets ignored time and time again.

So, here we are again. Another economic downturn is upon us and people are looking for help. They want solutions. They want to know that this mess WILL end, and preferably quickly. They want the price hikes to stop and the fleecing to end. They want to know when twenty dollars will fill up their tanks again and not forty or sixty or eighty dollars three more years down the line.

And the people who seek to inherit the mess created by the Bush Imperium… and make no mistake THIS IS the mess of George W. Bush and company… are eager to come up with ideas to resolve this matter. And preferably to come up with something that would work so that they really don’t HAVE to inherit this mess.

Senator John McCain seems to have come up with what appears to be a solid idea… which is to offer up a so-called “gas tax holiday” during the summer. This means that no gasoline tax will collected for the summer, which is when people supposedly drive the most. This idea is being seconded by Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton… you know, she who would supposedly be ready on day one at 3am, but yet somehow didn’t come up with this idea first.

Meanwhile Senator Barak Obama has nixed the idea, although he’s not too quick to come up with alternatives that would help out Americans in the short run. He’s still thinking long-term actions, much like Bush Junior was excusing the energy policy scam of 2005 was more for the “long-term” plan. He would rather tax the profits of the oil companies; although he forgets that companies NEVER pay taxes… their customers do!

The idea SEEMS nice, doesn’t it? You supposedly see a drop in the price at the pump and that gives you this warm and fuzzy feeling that someone in the government cares about your plight.

There are just a few flaws in this idea.

First, the difference in price would only be noticeable IF gas prices were to stop climbing. But during the summer months, the price of gas doesn’t stay still. It continually rises. It rises prior to every holiday coming up, on the belief that people will use that time to drive. So any difference you might enjoy is gone in just a couple of weeks.

Second, the difference itself is minimal. The average SUV driver will save maybe three dollars if they have to fill up their tank. That’s nothing when it costs them sixty or eighty dollars to do it. That’s not much of a relief for the average American, especially since everything ELSE is going up in price as well!

Third, what goes down must go back UP when the “tax holiday” ends; and since gas prices have in the past not begun their post-Summer downward spiral until October, you would have to deal with a SHARP price spike in September when the “holiday” finishes after Labor Day.

Fourth, and perhaps more importantly, suspending the gas tax deprives federal and state governments of essential revenue for road repair, including bridge maintenance. We just had one bridge collapse in Minnesota a few months back because of poor maintenance. How long would it take before government large and small would start complaining about not having the available funds to check some of the other bridges or to fix the ones that are in danger of collapse? How long before governments large and small would complain that they lack the funds to pay for the needed maintenance or expansions of the highways and roads? Where would the money come for these things? Would you be willing to through still more deficit spending, putting us even further in debt to Japan, Mexico, and China?

Let’s get brutally honest here… this “gas tax holiday” idea is nothing more than a cheap political trick designed to get support from the voters on the illusion that they care. It really won’t help the average American, and it will actually HURT them in the long-run.

There is more that can be done, but the people who are looking to become the next president can’t do anything in the short-term to make them happen. The most annoying part is that they each certainly had the opportunity to make a difference back when it could have mattered. The so-called “energy policy” crafted by the Bush Imperium and passed by Congress in 2005 was supposed to help fix things, and so far they haven’t. Instead, all we’ve been given is nothing but a bunch of dog-and-pony shows from the automakers about what they COULD do to get us off gasoline, but nothing actually in the dealerships. Senators McCain, Rodham-Clinton, and Obama certainly need to explain why they would allow this travesty to take place in 2005 knowing full well that at some point it WOULD continue to make things worse for us. Bush Junior may have signed it, but the members of Congress were the ones that were responsible for the wording.

In the meantime, though, we can dream of the day when twenty dollars would be enough to fill up the gas tanks again, but those days are pretty much gone. We can’t turn to Congress for help, and we certainly can’t turn to our presidential wannabes for solutions, because they don’t have any serious ones to enact.

We need to be the ones to take the next step. We need to stop pretending that gas prices will go back below $3. We need to stop pretending that we can afford to work in the city and live in the country. We need to stop pretending that gas mileage doesn’t matter. We need to wake the hell up and make the changes to our lives that need to be made. The days of cheap gasoline are over with, and we need to adapt accordingly.

At best, we need to be wary of the parlor tricks and con-games of our career politicians, and especially of those who want to run for the White House. And if they do offer solutions, then it’s up to us to find out if they would actually WORK. If they don’t then they don’t deserve our support, either for Congress or for the White House.

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