Death to the Federal Gas Tax

A congressional bill would kill the gas tax and remove Washington from transportation policy.

Gas pumpPublic DomainThe notion that U.S. infrastructure is crumbling and underfunded has been common lately, and more such news came in February, when the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that the Federal Highway Trust Fund could soon run out. This spurred debate about what to do with the trust's main funding source, the federal gas tax. Some legislators have long wanted to raise this tax, and President Obama recently proposed his own $302 billion funding plan. But one Congressman, Georgia Republican Tom Graves, has a better idea: nearly abolish the gas tax altogether.

Last November, Graves introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act, which was cosponsored through Senate legislation by Republican Mike Lee. By drastically reducing the tax, it would enable states to manage their own transportation policies, improving a process that has become massively inefficient under federal oversight.

“It's rather silly,” Graves told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that “taxpayers pay taxes at the pump that go to the federal government, [which] then tells our state how it must spend the money,” even though it doesn't “give you all the money you submitted.”

Currently, the $18.4 cents/gallon tax, along with an even higher diesel fuel tax, is the nation's prime source for transportation spending. Starting in 1956, the tax was funneled to the Highway Trust Fund to pay for the Interstate System, and has since funded numerous other projects. But with the rise of fuel-efficient automobiles, revenue from it has declined over the years from a high of $45 billion to somewhat more than $30 billion annually, and the fund is expected to have insufficient resources to meet all of its obligations within a year. Graves' bill would reduce the tax over five years to 3.7 cents/gallon, which could produce around $7 billion, and that money would be sent to states through block grants with few regulatory strings attached. States could then make up the difference by raising their own gas taxes.

Graves believes that this would produce more and better infrastructure, by allowing states to keep revenue that he correctly claims is not now being returned. According to a 2011 Heritage Foundation study, 28 states have a negative return on the gas taxes that they pay into the fund. Georgia, for example, is expected to have an 84 percent return in 2014—meaning a $185 million overall loss. Similar nine-figure losses are typical for ColoradoMichigan, and Texas, which has been robbed of one-fifth of its revenue since 1956.

How do such enormous sums get frittered away? Partly because of redistribution to other states. But it is also because of added costs imposed by what Graves calls the “Washington middleman.”

This includes the money needed to pay for federal bureaucracy, including a Federal Highway Administration that largely duplicates the responsibilities of state DOTs. States also suffer the added costs of numerous federal regulations, many of which cater more to left-wing policy goals than actual transportation needs. Every federally-funded transportation project, for example, is subject to Davis-Bacon laws that mandate the payment of local prevailing wages. An executive order from President Obama in 2009 requires federal projects of over $25 million to use Project Labor Agreements, which discourage open bidding in favor of unionized collective bargaining. And "Buy America" provisions in the U.S. Code prevent purchases of certain foreign construction materials, even if they're cheaper. Other regulations require redundant environmental reviews and over-demanding construction standards. Former FHWA head Robert Farris has estimated that, altogether, federal regulations increase project costs by 30 percent.

Federal oversight also encourages construction of projects that make little economic sense. Before the ban in 2010, large chunks of gas tax revenue went for earmarks. This meant that, rather than receiving public input, projects were funded through amendments that were put into spending bills by politically-driven legislators. This led to numerous wasteful projects, from Alaska's “Bridge to Nowhere,” to over-elaborate bus stops and transportation museums. Although Republicans have extended the earmark ban, there's no guarantee that it will be safe if Democrats reoccupy the House.

The selection process has also been inspired by urban planning dogmas that have crept from America's ivory towers into federal policy. In 1983, the Highway Fund was expanded for mass transit, and 16 percent of revenue is now dedicated to this purpose. Along with light rail, buses, and streetcars, the money goes to bike lanes, walking trails, pedestrian malls, landscaping, and other aesthetic garnish. Such transportation “alternatives” have become another way for the federal government to promote Smart Growth, but in most places, they don't move people cost-effectively.

Graves believes that by increasing local autonomy, his bill will weed out many of these misallocations. This is inspired by his belief—rooted in American federalism—that infrastructure becomes most pragmatic when funded by those who actually use it. This is in contrast, writes Nicole Gelinas in City Journal, to the impression of “free money” that localities get when receiving federal grants from taxpayers nationwide. Local control would also discourage the odd transportation policy uniformity now being imposed in a nation with vast cultural differences, from bike- and rail-obsessed Portland to Graves' rural Georgia district.

Of course the problem with his Transportation Empowerment Act may be its unlikelihood of passing. Due to political pressure, the gas tax has not been raised since 1993, causing it to lag behind inflation, but it has still been preserved because of its bipartisan appeal. Republicans like it because, by taxing consumption, it broadens the revenue base, and serves as a road fee. Democrats like it because it taxes a product considered environmentally harmful. This is why debates have been less about repealing it, than about how it can be bolstered.

But whatever is decided on should, at very least, echo Graves' focus on local empowerment. Ever since the inception of the gas tax, the federal government's role in transportation has, like with other policies, greatly expanded, even as its administrative competency has declined. As a result, transportation policy today is less about improving mobility than about politics, aesthetics, and broad social goals. This unfortunate trend has contributed to the poor state of U.S. infrastructure so apparent today.

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  • sarcasmic||

    Roads should be funded by a tax on a combination of vehicle weight and miles, since that's what causes the most damage.

  • ||

    From each according to his tonnage, to each according to his mileage.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, I don't know if that's snark, but from each according to his...? That's my reaction, too. The idea that we're going to let the government track me everywhere I drive so they can tax me appropriately is a non-starter.

    Honestly, sometimes our freedom is a function of the government's inability to monitor us and, hence, our ability to break the law, and my freedom to ignore the speed limit on my motorcycle is extremely important to me.

    Actually, I'll oppose that kind of monitoring on Fourth Amendment grounds, as well. If monitoring whom I talk to and for how long is an infringement on the Fourth Amendment, then monitoring where I am at all times is even worse.

    Hell, putting transponders on people to monitor where they are is something they do to convicted felons serving their sentences under house arrest. You want to do something like that to me, you're gonna have to get a jury of my peers to convict me of a crime, first.

  • prolefeed||

    You don't need transponders for this, just annual odometer readings.

  • prolefeed||

    Getting rid of taxes in favor of fees that charge people for their voluntary use of infrastructure would be a massive improvement over the status quo.

  • robc||

    Toll roads do that, odometer checks dont.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Also, it doesn't take a straw man to predict what California's environmentalists are going to do once the state is taxing people based on their mileage.

    Jesus, there are dozens of climate change deniers that frequent this site who deny climate change is a problem simply because they're afraid of giving the environmentalists the ability to tax them based on their mileage.

  • Virginian||

    Climate change deniers?

    No one denies the climate changes. What we deny is one or more of the following theories:

    a. the climate is changing because of human activity

    b. Said climate change will be harmful to the environment or humanity as a whole.

    c. It's possible to reverse said climate change.

    d. That it's possible to reverse said climate change without catastrophic effects on the economic growth that we need.

    e. That it's possible to reverse said climate change without resorting to aggressive statism.

  • Ken Shultz||

    So, you're not concerned about what the environmentalists would do to the economy, and you don't think the fear of that in any way influences the climate change deniers that frequent this site?

  • Virginian||

    I'm objecting to your contention that there are people who are denying the climate is changing.

    No one denies that. The climate is constantly changing, it's a dynamic system and always has been. What they deny is various aspects of the rest of global warming religion.

    It's like saying that if I accept that a man named Jesus lived, then I must also accept the Roman Catholic Church fully and completely and do whatever the Pope says.

    It's bullshit.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I'm objecting to your contention that there are people who are denying the climate is changing."

    Oh for goodness' sake, you don't like being called a climate change denier? You'd rather it were called something else?

    Okay, whatever it is that you're worried about that the environmentalists will try to do to the economy if their view of AGW (or whatever it is that you like to call it) prevails?

    One of those things I'm worried about is that that they might try to track how much each of us drives--and make it prohibitively expensive to do so in the name of saving the environment.

    Do an end around all the science debate and give them the ability to track each individual's mileage by way of the state government in Sacramento, and they will totally use it to bring about the same result--to the best of their ability. ...just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.

    That's half of their purpose in life is using the government to combat environmental threats--by any means available.

  • Virginian||

    I want people to use accurate language to describe things. Fuck me, right?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I didn't say that, but every constituency seems to have their own specific terminology, and I can't be expected to keep up with all of it.

    I guess it isn't just LGBT, anymore, It's LGBTQ plus maybe some other stuff, too?

    I'm sure the "Q" really matters to people who self-identify as queer, for whatever reason, but please don't ask me what that reason is because I have no idea.

    So, I honestly wasn't trying to offend any climate change deniers out there, and all the climate change denying queers have my apology twice over if I offended them, too.

    For what it's worth, if you're a heterosexual, AGW denying brony, that's just fine by me. Whatever you are, I'm okay, you're okay, we're all alright, let's just keep the government away from my motorcycle.

  • ||

    Don't mind Ken, he's just being a cunt about this.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You don't like being called a racist because you disagree with Obama, or a misogynist because you disagree with Hillary? You'd rather it were called something else?

    Yes, yes I would, because it isn't climate change denial, it's CAGW denial, or, based on the actual data, reality.

  • ||

    I have a problem with the word "denier" because it is a less than subtle attempt to equivocate a lack of belief in the CAGW with a lack of belief in the Jewish Holocaust.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I bet there are holocaust deniers out there, somewhere, who resent being lumped in with "crazy" AGW deniers, too.

    I sure as hell wasn't trying to equate climate change deniers with holocaust deniers. That's some pretty awesome projection you got goin' on there!

    Pro-death people would rather be called pro-choice. Anti-choice people would rather be called pro-life. What difference does it make to anybody else?

    One of them is against abortion and the other one thinks abortion access is a right. Calling them Hutus and Tutsis instead wouldn't change anything.

    Shouldn't there be some kind of word for people who look at the predominate scientific consensus and reject it--for whatever (maybe good!) reason?

    "Denier" seems like about as considerate a label as you're likely to get.

  • ||

    There may be some consensus among scientists, but it ain't scientific. They have an effect and no scientific ability to correlate that effect with their preferred cause. If anything, the AGW crowd is the group denying the science.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "If anything, the AGW crowd is the group denying the science."

    So what?

    Does any of this mean the environmentalists that have Sacramento by the balls* AREN'T going to use taxing individuals by the mileage they drive as a means to make driving prohibitively expensive?

    I promise you. Whatever inefficiencies we wring out of the system in California by taxing people by their mileage will more than be made up for by environmentalists piling on prohibitively expensive taxes for the sake of the environment--rather than to allocate for road repairs more efficiently.

    *To the point that they're effectively starving farmers out of the Central Valley for want of water)

  • sarcasmic||

    Consensus is a tool of politics, not science.

    A consensus can override unpleasant results of the scientific method with a majority vote.

    That's not science. That's politics.

    Science is the guy who proves the consensus to be wrong.

    When people value the consensus over the scientific method, it ceases to be science.

  • chmercier||

    Dang! I though science was only proven through a popularity contest! Do you think "Accepted Science" will have it's own spot in a yearbook? It should according to "consensus" logic.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "When people value the consensus over the scientific method, it ceases to be science."

    Actually, science is almost entirely consensus driven, and when more data becomes available that contradicts the prevailing consensus, the consensus is revised.

    This is the heart of fallibilism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallibilism

    The consensus once held that the sun orbited the earth. Galileo ground some new lenses and looked through them into the solar system and saw some things scientists had never seen before. The consensus had to change because of that new data, and the new consensus holds that the earth actually orbits the sun.

    However, if new data became available tomorrow showing that the original consensus was correct, that the sun actually does orbit the earth? The consensus would have to change again.

    There isn't anything observable that we can ever really know for certain because it will always be subject to perspective and it will always be revisable given new contradicting evidence that might arrive tomorrow!

    Having lots of different scientists looking at these things from all their different perspectives helps to a certain degree--and the prevailing consensus on that data at any given point in time?

    That's what we call "science".

  • chmercier||

    Here are the essential problems with the word "denier" in the context of climate change:

    It is intentionally used by various parties to rhetorically associate AGW skeptics with Holocaust deniers.

    It is then utilized by party channels and establishment/state media to associate those who are skeptical of command economy solutions to answer the theory of AGW/ACC.

    Most skeptics would not deny that "climate changes," hence the derision to that term, offensive due to its insinuations. Just because one is skeptical of AGW or state-run solutions, they are rhetorically tied to those who deny something horrific that is historically factual.

    AGW is still in testing, therefore not fact. There are signs that people have a large, if varying, impact, true. It's not denied. As the main cause, however, is up to debate.

    Where I think most skeptics become irritated is when their skepticism is shoved off as insanity or villainy. Oddly, the tactic by those who believe AGW is an imminent threat - where the only solution is regressive taxes and a medieval economy, and then actively push to stifle dissent, promote censorship, pursue ad hominem attacks, or simply jail those who disagree - is one that leaves people outside of panic mode or gullibility a note of skepticism.

    That's why the term is offensive. It's akin to calling those who wish/do the above "climate fascists/nazis/Stalinists." However, that would, judging by the state's/media's actions, be far more appropriate.

  • Sevo||

    chmercier|3.22.14 @ 6:27PM|#
    "Here are the essential problems with the word "denier" in the context of climate change:"

    Nice summation of evidence; the arrogation of a term with the specific intent to demonize those who do not agree with your opinion.

  • chmercier||

    Thank you!

    Now I'm trying to think of a clever way to say "deny-high five!"

  • chmercier||

    Er, above to Sevo :)

  • Sevo||

    Got it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Here are the essential problems with the word "denier" in the context of climate change:

    It is intentionally used by various parties to rhetorically associate AGW skeptics with Holocaust deniers."

    Here's the problem with accusing people who call other people "deniers" of trying to smear them as being in the same boat with holocaust deniers:

    They're so often not trying to smear them as holocaust deniers; for instance, the association never even occurred to me!

    Why should anyone be reluctant to make an association that doesn't occur to them--that only occurs to you in your head after the fact?

  • chmercier||

    If my post seemed to be directed at smearing others, that wasn't my intent - so, sorry about that.

    I just said that it's more or less a media/government thing where it does seem that the rhetorical association is there, willingly. (My personal thoughts on AGW below.)

    It's very active, and I think that's good if you didn't mean that - it's commendable - but many folks here, and who are like me, may have been called "denier" without pause (and accused of worse) based on some reasonable skepticism.

    My own views are pretty simple: humans do have an impact on the environment, but I think it's pretty negligible compared to the AGW hypotheses. Climate changes - is it bad? great? what are the proper courses of action?

    That said, I doubt the progressive government's method for dealing with that is the typical prog response - cripple manufacturing, ration utilities, and increase costs/taxes across the board (I think their solution is just a massive regressive tax cash and power grab).

    I believe that's why it's a loaded term as far as some of us go - our feelings have been hurt! :)

    Now, should we go mention "Chicago" on some MSNBC comment boards?

  • Sevo||

    "Why should anyone be reluctant to make an association that doesn't occur to them--that only occurs to you in your head after the fact?"

    Ken, I'm not presuming the premeditated decision to label those who disagree with a pejorative linked to the Nazis.
    I *am* presuming that once the serendipitous connection was made, it gained currency in a new york minute.
    Much as those who oppose abortion call themselves "pro-life", a PR value was found and is now being used consciously.
    I do not deny the climate is changing, nor do I deny that humanity plays some part in that. By denying that the proposed, socialist, solutions are correct, I am now a 'denier'; those ovens didn't exist.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Like I said, you can call pro-life people whatever you want--they are what they are anyway.

    Calling AGW deniers something else doesn't change them either. Calling them "deniers" certainly doesn't make them holocaust deniers.

    And for many of them? "Denier" is more accurate than "skeptic". For a lot of them, they don't care what the data shows. If the absolutely conclusive evidence showed up tomorrow, they'd deny it was conclusive without even looking at it--like a bunch of creationists talking about evolution.

    Assuming that their denial is driven by a refusal to accept socialist solutions to climate change is giving them a lot of credit, and I think they deserve credit for that--and I've been giving them credit for that all along.

    But describing their skepticism as "denial" doesn't change anything about the true nature of their position. I'm certainly not about to shy away from calling out the denialism I see just because holocaust deniers are, likewise, denialists.

    I see myriad capitalist solutions to climate change, and I think the denialists fear that there are none--and I think that's what's driving their denialism, rather than the the data itself.

    The reason they aren't as passionate against string theory is because they don't fear the consequences of string theory. But anybody who actively denies whatever evidence turns up for string theory because they fear the policy consequences is not just a "skeptic".

  • blitzstrasse||

    Words mean stuff. Replace "denier" with "skeptic" and you're all good.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Jesus, Ken.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You don't know where I'm driving.

    In California, if I'm on the freeways or the state highways the whole time, what's that mean for city roads?

    The freeways and the highways are all covered by CalTrans, they're overfunded and they're generally doing fine! Twisty mountain highways from nowhere to nowhere are well maintained. I've seen it with my own screeching tires.

    Meanwhile, La Cienega Boulevard is full of potholes. Isn't the purpose to track what roads people are riding on?

    CalTrans is well funded from Sacramento; meanwhile, Los Angeles and San Bernardino can't pay to fix their city streets.

  • robc||

    And you expect me to pay for my offroading?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Have you ever been to Glamis?

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Yes.

  • robc||

    Ive never heard of glamis.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Take the 78 East to just before you hit Arizona--it generally doesn't show up on the map.

    Look for thousands of people having the time of their lives off road on gigantic sand dunes and what must be hundreds of miles of groomed trails.

  • robc||

    Ive also never been in California.

  • ||

    You can disconnect your speedometer cable without any tools in about 3 minutes.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If a transponder were tracking your speed, it wouldn't matter if you disconnected your speedometer.

    My GPS can tell me my speed knowing two points and how long it took me to get from one to the other--no speedometer on my car required.

    I presume those black boxes we all have probably would be affected by disconnecting your speedometer.

    And, you know, in San Francisco, they banned happy meals and they were trying to ban circumcisions!

    If those same progressives could track my speed and fine me every time I went over the speed limit, they totally would.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Except that they can't.

    CA Vehicle Section 40802:
    (a) A "speed trap" is either of the following:
    (1) A particular section of a highway measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'd like to think that would stand up against some progressive crusade, but it's the California Supreme Court, I'm not sure I have a lot of confidence in that.

  • ||

    If a transponder is added to my car, I can disconnect that too. Now the government is obligated to set up monitoring systems everywhere to detect transponder-less vehicles. So now I can take the transponder out of my motorcycle, which presumably charges me at a lower rate than my truck, and put it in my truck. And then the government will have to respond with real-time systems that determine if the transponder it just recorded actually matches the vehicle that just passed. Given operating costs, this system won't raise any more money than the old system. However, it will provide for a whole host of new cronies in the transponder industry while simultaneously violating everyone's privacy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I appreciate that there still may be ways to resist such a system, but I can see this quickly becoming a new baseline.

    When magnetic strips first appeared on the back of our drivers licenses, people used to run a refrigerator magnet down the strip when the license first arrived in the mail.

    I think people are mostly blase about that now. I'd rather we just kept the government out of doing that kind of thing to begin with.

  • Ann N||

    is this sarcasm?

    the central point of statism is coercive violence. if you disconnect that transponder they will put you in jail.

    obey regulation or face escalating sanctions.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Suppose that someone spent their summer on a cross country driving vacation.

    How would odometer readings tell what which mileage that person drove in all the states he passed through to charge him the appropriate state gas taxes?

  • sarcasmic||

    Who said anything about transponders? I must admit though, you slayed that straw man dead.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We use transponders in California just to pay our tolls on the toll lanes and on toll roads.

    If you're going to track which roads people use, you're going to use transponders.

    That's what we already do! If you're going to track mileage, you're going to use transponders.

  • sarcasmic||

    There is no other possible way at all. Got it. Glad to know you're omniscient.

  • Ken Shultz||

    What are you, Tulpa now?!

    You said my suggestion of them using transponders was a straw man.

    You wanna move those goalposts somewhere else?

  • Tötmacher||

    And what are you, stupid?

    He never said transponders. YOU DID. There are other ways to accomplish what he suggested, so it WAS a strawman, and you're just acting like a fucking argumentative child.

    Again.

  • Ken Shultz||

    He never said transponders. YOU DID.

    They're already using transponders.

    It doesn't need to be said--because they're already using transponders.

    It isn't a straw man--I'm not making it up! They're already using transponders.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn25fnBuao0

    They made a rap about it in that video--is that a straw man rapping?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I know what you're thinking, Totmacher!

    What makes me think they might use transponders?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Well, here's the thing: they're already using transponders.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Must be the phone cops. Does their evil know no bounds? Transponders are one option but hardly the only one.

  • Redmanfms||

    What are you, Tulpa now?!

    Funny, especially considering the really impressive impersonation of him you did above Ken.

    Jesus you can be a fucking twat.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Don't you have anything interesting to say?

  • JWatts||

    "Roads should be funded by a tax on a combination of vehicle weight and miles, since that's what causes the most damage."

    Theoretically, yes, but historically that's been difficult. And up until recent history the gas tax served as a pretty good proxy for vehicle weight and mileage. The recent wide spread usage of electrical and hybrid vehicles is changing the value of that as a useful proxy.

    So, I think the US may need to go to some sort of direct measure of mileage accumulated per vehicle, but that a fairly intrusive system. At the least you'd need to go in once a year and have someone from the state record your used mileage and assign a tax. Most people would find that fairly burdensome.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    How bout we leave the gas tax (but let individual states run it) and put monitors on the electric cars?

    As taxes go, if run by individual states, the gas tax is a fairly equitable way of funding teh roadz. Your share is essentially what you use.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Transponders work great for toll roads.

    Set up more toll roads. Use more toll lanes! Those are great.

    I use the toll lanes all the time, and with them, the price changes relative to demand. When traffic backs up, the price goes up! And shouldn't such prices be demand driven anyway?

    Charging commuters what it costs to build a road is like the labor theory of value. Get away from that silliness, and we can really start to get to the heart of the matter.

    Instead of looking to new and better ways to raise tax revenue, why aren't we looking at getting rid of things that artificially inflate the cost of highway construction and maintenance?

    Why aren't we getting rid of the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the taxpayers to pay the prevailing wage as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor's "Wage and Hour Division"?

    Why do the taxpayers have to pay union wages? Do you have any idea how much labor accounts for the cost of constructing and maintaining this infrastructure?

  • sarcasmic||

    Who said anything about transponders? I must admit though, you slayed that straw man dead.

  • Ken Shultz||

    1) Those black boxes that are in 96% of the cars on the road have all sorts of potential.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/.....r/1566098/

    2) We already use transponders!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn25fnBuao0

    Your thinking is horribly flawed, here. You're overlooking a couple of 800 lbs. gorillas in the middle of the room to look for efficiency improvements in the couch cushions--and, meanwhile, messing with those couch cushions is highly likely to cause all kinds of new problems.

    How 'bout let's deal with the 800 lbs. gorillas?

    1) Get rid of the Davis-Bacon Act!

    2) Labor theory of value is horseshit!

  • sarcasmic||

    The red herring did it! The red herring did it!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Why is dramatically lowering the cost of constructing and maintaining roads a red herring?

    Why is the fact that nothing should be priced based solely on how much it costs to build a red herring?

  • David Wall||

    Seems like privatization should be the end goal of any libertarian position and should at least be mentioned in posts like this. It is not that far fetched. When Mitch Daniels was governor he tried to start working Indiana's highway system toward privatization. Although he did not get very far, at least he started a discussion about it. If libertarians don't offer the free market solutions, who then?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Great point.

    My understanding was that the original toll lanes on California Highway 91 were built by entrepreneurs. The government bought it from the private developers once they demonstrated that it was profitable.

    It should have gone the other way. The government should have sold more express lanes to the private firm on other highways. It must have been embarrassing to the government seeing someone build something on schedule, under budget, and get a return on it.

  • Mike M.||

    The gas tax already does a pretty good job of taxing drivers based on their vehicle weight and miles driven.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    That's great, if you want the government to have a reason to track every car you own, every moment of every day, and to pile huge penalties on anyone who disables such tracking.

    As for me, the historical evidence is that the government would horribly botch the "tax the people who actually cause road wear" part of your idea, while getting into all KINDS of mischief with the data. no thanks.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Graves believes that by increasing local autonomy, his bill will weed out many of these misallocations."...

    As a resident of the PRC (that's CA), I certainly wish the best to those living in states with more intelligent governments.
    Here, I'm sure, they'll find even dumber ways to waste it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, California mismanages the way it spends the money it has. If you gave California more money to spend on roads, they'd almost certainly do more of the same.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Why do I suspect that Kalifornia is a net beneficiary of the current system?

  • Harvard||

    Hate to point out that your pain is only a moving van away.

  • prolefeed||

    SoCal has great weather. Just been there, and I can see someone else putting up with the CA gov to live there.

    Just don't bitch about it, as long as you can pack up and leave any time you choose.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Just don't bitch about it"

    You're not supposed to complain about the government where you live because you can leave?

    That's fucking ridiculous.

    This whole website is a bitch session.

    Next time you complain about something Barack Obama does, I'll be sure to remind you that the door's unlocked and you can leave whenever you want. Are you gonna pretend that's some kind of reasonable argument?

    P.S. And it isn't just the weather.

  • chmercier||

    By renaming some of the surfaces "diversity top," perhaps?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    You can say that again!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    that

  • american socialist||

    If we had listened to people like Mr. Heritage foundation we never would have the interstate highway system, which-- I know, I know-- is an example of socialist tyranny. It's pretty funny that the first thing on this guy's blog is a call for people to stop bitching about income equality in San Francisco and improve the BART and Muni. Scott, WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK MONEY FOR PUBLIC PROJECTS COME FROM IF NOT TAXES-- WHICH YOU PROPOSE TO ABOLISH?

  • Sevo||

    "It's pretty funny that the first thing on this guy's blog is a call for people to stop bitching about income equality in San Francisco and improve the BART and Muni. Scott, WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK MONEY FOR PUBLIC PROJECTS COME FROM IF NOT TAXES-- WHICH YOU PROPOSE TO ABOLISH?"

    Well, it's a shame to let stupidity like that go unrewarded.
    Care to draw the line between 'income inequality' and your second sentence? I could use a laugh this morning.

  • american socialist||

    You mean we should raise taxes on the leeches in the banking industry down there on Montgomery St. so the BART doesn't break down every 5 minutes. Yeah, I'm for that.

  • Atanarjuat||

    So, in a nutshell, you're arguing that if we just give more money to corrupt idiots the trains will literally run on time?

  • JWatts||

    "So, in a nutshell, you're arguing that if we just give more money to corrupt idiots the trains will literally run on time?"

    No, he's arguing if we just give more money to Top Men all production will be efficiently allocated and everyone's needs met.

    He believes that the government should control the means of production. He believes this, despite all the historical evidence to indicate that socialism doesn't work out nearly as well in practice as the theory say.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    It'll work this time. We might have to murder 100,000,000 people. But we'll get it to work, this time.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.22.14 @ 10:36AM|#
    "You mean we should raise taxes on the leeches in the banking industry down there on Montgomery St. so the BART doesn't break down every 5 minutes. Yeah, I'm for that."

    What sort of gibberish is that? Those are English words, but they seem to be selected at random.
    Are you capable of forming a logical thought?

  • american socialist||

    maybe you're a dyslexic moron.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Remember to wipe the spittle off that mirror.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.22.14 @ 12:52PM|#
    "maybe you're a dyslexic moron"

    You posted that word salad and *I'M* dyslexic?!
    Projection is so comforting to the ignorant!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK MONEY FOR PUBLIC PROJECTS COME FROM IF NOT TAXES-- WHICH YOU PROPOSE TO ABOLISH?

    Why, exactly, is the government in charge of running trains?

  • DJF||

    If you bothered to read the article, getting rid of the federal tax would allow states to raise their tax if needed all without having to pay the overhead of sending the money to Washington first

  • ||

    But then I wouldn't get to pay for american dumbfuck to ride the super-choo-choo in a state I'll never visit. That wouldn't be fair.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Or dig big holes so a city so thoroughly and intelligently laid out as Boston can limp along a few more decades.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    How would you be able to black mail states into things like 21 drinking age and .08 DUI levels if you couldn't hold back their road money?

  • ||

    ROADZ!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously?

  • chmercier||

    Yes. But remember: we didn't build those ROADZ.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "It's pretty funny that the first thing on this guy's blog is a call for people to stop bitching about income equality in San Francisco and improve the BART and Muni."

    You have to remember that California has the highest state tax rate in the country at 7.5%. It isn't just about San Francisco's tax rate.


    Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in California is still 8.1%, which ranks 48th out of the 50 states plus D.C.

    http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

    Raising taxes in the face of that is so grossly incompetent, it probably rises to the level of being immoral.

    Maybe you're one of these people who thinks raising tax rates doesn't have any real effect on the economy (read "people")? If so, you're wrong.

  • chmercier||

    Ken - "immoral" is a word and word only for the ideologues that run that place. It's a weapon to be used against their enemies, and only then.

    They have no concept of "morality" - only the end result. Whatever means of achieving that goal do not matter. They are simply not on the same playing field as people like you or me, where "theft is theft, assault is assault, lying is lying" are morally abhorrent acts. Those are merely tools to get what they want. Competency to crusade their faith is not needed. Only power.

  • robc||

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    What did Madison know about the Constitution anyway?

    /prog

    Seriously, I read that and had to wipe a tear of joy from my eye.

  • Sevo||

    Francisco d'Anconia|3.22.14 @ 12:53PM|#
    "What did Madison know about the Constitution anyway?"

    He read about it in the Berkeley Barb.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    In case you hadn't noticed, the article is calling for a change in how tax money is collected, so as to (at least partially) eliminate a wasteful detour through Wonderland On The Potomac.

    Or do you think that looping the money stream through an additional hive of drones somehow improves matters?

  • AlmightyJB||

    I think this will have broad bipartisan appeal as the proposed alternative if installing tracking devices on everyone's vehicle that you cannot disable by law. So if your cell phone is turned off they still know where you are all of the time. Yeah, I know. I'm one of those paranoid nut jobs because our public servants are way too trustworthy for this to ever happen.

  • AlmightyJB||

    is installing

  • AlmightyJB||

    Also, if they're so concerned about global warming, wouldn't taxes on gas be their most obvious choice for this?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    By drastically reducing the tax, it would enable states to manage their own transportation policies, improving a process that has become massively inefficient under federal oversight.

    But without that bribe money leverage, how will the federal government impose uniform national standards like the 21 year old drinking age?

  • Sevo||

    Hey, he left out some of the side benefits...

  • Harvard||

    How about an imposition more on point? Remember Montana's unlimited interstate speed limit? They were threatened by a cut in their "transportation fund allotments" until they heeled.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    [citation required]

    It wasn't just interstate and from what I saw, the demise of "reasonable and prudent" came from nannies within the state, namely local media.

  • american socialist||

    Hey, I'm planning on going to the anarchist book fair today in sf. Reportedly, there are people there that call themselves Leftist Libertarians. There are people out there that think you can get fucked over by the government and by a corporation!? Who knew? Clearly deluded and useful idiots of Stalin.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You'll find no love for corporate cronyism here. Which is why most people here (I think) do not think it is a good idea to send even more money and power to Washington where they and their corporate cronies can rip us off and hold soul crushing power over us.

  • Marshall Gill||

    The problem with the majority of Leftist Libertarians is that they are really Leftist but only a tad Libertarian. When the two come into conflict, guess which one they choose?

  • JWatts||

    My personal experience is that anyone referring to themselves as a Leftist Libertarian is still a statist. They still desire a big and powerful government bossing other people around. They just want the existing rules changed to protect their personal special interests.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    leftist libertarian is bullshit, lefties only believe in three freedoms, drugs, sex and abortion-which is fine, but there is more to freedom than that. If the repubs had any balls they would just ask the question: "Why is it the only time you hear the dems say "choice" is when they are talking about abortion?" And its true, during campaigns, that is literally the only time they use that word.

  • DJF||

    Especially since money that is sent off to Washington and then sent back to the States is often treated as "found money" and wasted even more then locally raised money

  • Tony||

    You're hopelessly missing the point.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think we understand the point just fine.

    You know, the problem is that the corporations have hijacked the government.

    And the only solution is to give government more power so it can control the corporations that control it.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

    And if that doesn't work, it was only because the government wasn't given enough power.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    you know whats fucked up? that pretty much summarizes every single posting on slate or huffpo. I'm not even being that hyperbolic, they fill it in with an example, but it really is the same reasoning.

  • mplspolitics||

    KILL YOURSELF

  • american socialist||

    Someone should tell mrrs. Gillespie and welch that there are people out there that call themselves libertarian and don't like mr. And mr. Koch AT ALL. Maybe they just don't know them we'll enough. In any case I thought I'd tell you guys so reason mag can get the police involved to enforce their ip on the sole proper use of economic libertarianism-- that is, to enforce, excuse and entrench economic inequality.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yes, because Libertarians control the San Francisco PD. Oh wait, we can just send the army to oppress you all. Or these guys:

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/CS9OO0S5w2k/0.jpg

  • From the Tundra||

    AT ALL? Not even a teeny, tiny bit?

  • ||

    Lol.

    Reason, of course, having written extensively and virtually exclusively in favor of abolishing intellectual property.

    I forgot how to troll!

  • AlmightyJB||

    How do you all feel about George Soros?

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.22.14 @ 10:55AM|#
    "Someone should tell mrrs. Gillespie and welch..."

    I guess it's beyond surprising by now, but lefty imbeciles continue to show up here spouting the same damn lies, innuendo, misdirection and general crap under the presumptions that we've never read them before and that quite a few of us shared similar fantasies before we grew up.
    It's tiresome.

  • Byte Me||

    I was thinking that this "american socialist" character HAS to be a parody sock puppet. If not, it is one INCREDIBLY stupid person with the intellectual honesty/capacity of a microbe.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    tru dat

    I'm surprised he hasn't uttered the tiresome "fire in crowded theater" fucking line when talking about free speech.

  • mplspolitics||

    Your instructed rage at the Koch's is reaching a level of pathology that is breathtaking. Might I suggest that you die in a fucking fire?

  • ||

    You have to enjoy the disconnect though. A.S. objects that the Koch's have too much control over the government, and by proxy, too much control over A.S. A.S. can't object to the government part of the equation though, since A.S. wants to use the government to have control over everyone else. So A.S. directs blind rage at the Kochs for stealing its thunder.

  • chmercier||

    "economic inequality" - should McDonald's cashiers who work 10 hours a week part time make as much as the president of the US then? OR vice versa?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    All politicians should be required to live off of their graft. No salaries, no pensions, just steal what you can until we get sick enough of your thieving behind to vote you out.

  • chmercier||

    Just remember, the Koch brothers are busy guys. They'll return your phone call soon. It's nothing personal. Have a great day!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Ima gonna make the Mary call early.

  • Sevo||

    Don't think so. a.s. has been around posting run-of-the-mill lefty agitprop for several weeks.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Will you go to the book fair for us to find out? I'll chip in for a book.

  • Sevo||

    Not on your life, but I found the thing:
    http://bayareaanarchistbookfai.....r-history/
    "If you’re curious, you can see Ward Churchill laying it all out at the Eleventh Annual Book Fair ."
    I don't think these people know what "anarchy" means.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No, those people are classic Western Intellectual Lefties; any word they use means what they say it means, no more and no less. That way they can declare that they have won all arguments, despite having few facts and no grasp of logic. They are "Anarchists" when it suits them, "Revolutionaries" when it will get them laid but not shot, "Liberals" when it isn't to their disadvantage, etc.

    For this reason, I strongly suspect that our self proclaimed "American Socialist" is neither.

  • ||

    Mary would have maligned Epi at least three times by now.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    anarchist book fair today in sf. Reportedly, there are people there that call themselves Leftist Libertarians.

    In other words, the sort of "anarchists" who believe rights are granted by the State.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I need to pick up a copy of "The Anarchist Guide to Boot Licking".

  • ||

  • AlmightyJB||

    :)

  • chmercier||

    What was that term...useful something? Savants? Icicles?

    ERhm...drawing a blank here...

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The last I heard, it was 20% of federal gas tax money that was set aside for mass transit and other non road projects - not the 16% mentioned in this article.

    Whatever the percentage is, that practice should be stopped immediately. The gas tax is supposed to be a user fee for drivers to pay for the use of roads. Drivers are not using mass transit, bike paths, walking trails or any of the other stuff that money is currently being spent on.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "By drastically reducing the tax, it would enable states to manage their own transportation policies, improving a process that has become massively inefficient under federal oversight."

    There's the rub.

    Why would politicians at the federal level vote for something that is sure to diminish their own power, and why would Barack Obama sign it?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    But with the rise of fuel-efficient automobiles, revenue from it has declined over the years from a high of $45 billion to somewhat more than $30 billion annually, and the fund is expected to have insufficient resources to meet all of its obligations within a year.

    Simple solution:

    Bring back the gas guzzlers...fill those coffers!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    An executive order from President Obama in 2009 requires federal projects of over $25 million to use Project Labor Agreements, which discourage open bidding in favor of unionized collective bargaining.

    Ah, the legisecutive branch of government.

  • Byte Me||

    BUT WUT ABOUT TEH ROADZ!

  • chmercier||

    FREEDOM FROM...uh...HURT TO CHILDREN!

  • prolefeed||

    An article about a federal gas tax, and not a mention about how taxing and funding transportation is not an enumerated power of Congress?

    Really?

  • robc||

    I mentioned it.

  • sarcasmic||

    You can't have commerce without.... ROADZ11!!11!

  • Vampire||

    Don't you just love it when folks complain about the "crumbling infrastructure" but fail to realize that central planning is the cause of such dilapidated infrastructure. When someone purchases something, they want the best for their media of exchange. The same should be for roads and so on.

    There is no economizing when it comes to the central planning of roads. State DOT's look to use all of the budgets allocated to them, instead of reducing costs and making the roads last longer. Crumb rubber has been fought, along with advanced road building techniques because that would mean the road wouldn't require anywhere near the maintenance conventional road construction does. They've already tested such advanced roads along side conventional roads, and after a few years the advanced road was almost new, while the conventional road had cracks and pot holes.

    There is no incentive to economize, or reduce traffic as everyone is forced to pay for the roads. There are no competing routes that individuals could choose to take, thereby rewarding the owners of roads with no traffic, fastest travel tines, safety, etc., versus punishing a BQE type monstrosity.

    The only way to have good infrastructure is to stop rewarding the failure that is government roads and let free individuals in the market handle road construction.

  • chmercier||

    I wonder if it's simply a case of (I think Bastiat's?) principle of bureaucracy that exists to feed or condone bureaucracy. In essence, the gov't has a monopoly on roads, and according the Mr. Obama's order, only unionized workers can maintain many of them in no-bid contracts. Both of these expensive parties then have no interest in maintaining actual infrastructure or efficiency, just their own payroll.

    If anything, they will double the taxes to increase their bureaus and give themselves raises. It's unsustainable, but they don't care. They only care about the balance of petty power and deep wells of "free" cash.

    My thoughts, anyway.

  • Vampire||

    Right on the money. Even if there were public private partnerships, this would still result in the taxpayers bearing all the risk, and the corporation would be shielded from market forces, thereby operating just like the state DOT's.

  • chmercier||

    Thank you - and guh, it's a frightening well of corruption, nay?

    Also - is "Vampire" in relation to being a (according to proggies) "libertarian vampire" by any chance?

  • Vampire||

    Well, a libertarian Vampire would only act if it is consensual, not just act aggressively against others just cause they wanted to bite someone and drink some blood.. Anthony Gregory wrote and article on just that, and someone made a book about it. Pretty cool.

    But seriously, that is a nickname I was given because I 1)have an extra set of fang teeth 2) I bite....not just any random person though lol. Maybe if u piss me off.....but then what if you liked it? That would totally suck and ruin the whole revenge thingy. Damnit!

  • chmercier||

    Thanks - and awesome. I remember Anthony Gregory, actually (oddly, it was his stuff that got me into big-L libertarianism). I'll have to hunt those down some time...

    Nice on the fang teeth! And dang those sadists who actually want to be revenged on!

    Unless it all just goes back to voluntary vampirism...

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Well, a libertarian Vampire would only act if it is consensual,..."

    The libertarian vampire would just declare that his potential food sources are not persons and anyone who says different is imposing their morality on him.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Also; Governments LOVE new projects (ribbon cuttings make great photo ops) but hate to pay for maintenance.

  • Americanius||

    Why stop at the gas tax? We are paying the vig with every agency to bribe state and local politicians into implementing destructive policies and programs while carrying the dead weight of unnecessary bureaucracy. If Portland wants more bike trails for their naked bikers then let them pay for it but stop my reps from doling out grants for green spaces and trails as campaign PR during an election year.

  • nancy284||

    Start earning with Google. Just work for few hours and have more time with friends and family. I earn up to $500 per week. Its actually the nicest job Ive had. Linked Here www.Pow6.com

  • crazydaisy||

    This is perfection. Thanks.
    landscape companies in las vegas

  • crazydaisy||

    Ah! Can't believe this. las vegas landscaping services

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