It’s very late again, and we’re just in from the Improv show at The Comedy Zone … in which I threw Jessica under the bus by twisting a suggestion when she didn’t expect it. Sorry Jess. It’s a long story. Otherwise, it was a pretty good show to a small house. We need more people, that’s for sure. But that’s another post.
One Yes: The Obama administration this week has reversed a Bush policy that I always thought was just wrong-headed. He’s signed an executive order allowing more research using embryonic stem cells, which could, oh, I don’t know, find a cure for my wife’s MS, among other things. There has been very promising research done with stem cells for MS patients at Northwestern University, and so anything that might prevent her from having the very debilitating stages of the disease, I’m all for.
I’m not one of those people who has a problem with the research, and while I understood President Bush’s strong convictions about it … I just always disagreed with him. I’m sure there are a lot of issue on which I’ll find disagreement with President Obama … but this is not one of them.
The economy and taxes … well that’s another story.
Which brings me to “One No” … and this was mostly dead a month ago, but The New York Times reports today that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) is reviving the idea of a “Mileage Tax” as a way to raise money for highway infrastructure funding.
We will have multiple revenue sources as we go into the authorization period,” Oberstar told reporters today. “Vehicle miles traveled will be one.”
Charging drivers a small fee for every mile they travel is “a more efficient, more effective, more beneficial way to generate revenues into the Highway Trust Fund because it will more accurately measure the effect on the roadways of congestion, of wear and tear on our road and bridge surfaces than a simple gas tax,” he added.
The theory is that a GPS tracking device could keep tabs on how much you drive, and assess you a tax based on those miles. More realistically, they’d probably use “the honor system” which I’m sure would have people severely under-reporting their mileage, but these tracking devices have been discussed.
Now, there are a multitude of problems with this proposal, in my view. First is the whole concept of “Big Brother” keeping tabs on your driving habits. You can already be tracked with the “Sunpass” and similar toll transponders if you drive on toll roads, but this would be every mile every place you drive. I certainly don’t need the government keeping track of my driving habits. People would understandably drive less, which is probably part of the point, but what would that do to the economies of states like Florida which are so heavily dependent on tourism … a lot of it drive-in. And how long before some aggrieved person demands access to their spouses’ driving records because they suspect them of cheating? Then, there are the people who are finding jobs in this economy where ever they can, sometimes scores of miles from home, only to find that the only job they could get costs them hundreds of additional dollars in mileage taxes just to get to and from work. The hardest hit would be the middle class, most likely, who are not eligible for any bailouts and struggling the hardest to keep the roof over their heads. This is just a bad, bad, bad idea.
Hiking the gasoline tax is only slightly less egregious … but at least you pay at the pump and don’t have a government tracking device in your car.
So, bravo, Mr. President, for lifting the ban on stem cell research. That was a pretty easy one. Now, I hope that you’ll stick to what you said back in February and continue to oppose the mileage tax idea. I don’t mind paying taxes that are fair, but (as they said in one of my favorite segments on ESPN’s Monday Night Football Pregame show this year) C’Mon, Man! I hope that idea is just a trial balloon … ’cause it’s certainly made of lead.