Time Right For Bush To Push Revenue-Neutral Gas Tax?

A New Yorker columnist compares today's sky-high energy prices with those during the Carter administration, and the scare of the terrorism of September 11 to that of December 7, 1941. She suggests that increasing the gas tax should be considered.
May 25, 2006, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"With only thirteen per cent of the public approving of Bush's handling of gasoline prices, congressional Republicans are having second thoughts about those oil-company tax breaks, while Democrats focus primarily on a feeble but presumably popular measure that would reduce the federal gas tax for sixty days and increase taxes on oil companies.

What no elected official has yet taken a stand on is the fact that there is an obvious way to begin addressing the energy crisis, one that would reduce our need for foreign oil, encourage fuel efficiency, attack global warming, and maybe banish the Hummer forever: a steep tax on gasoline. The general assumption is that this would be political poison -- too many Americans have to drive long distances to work. As a result, the gas tax, which is 18.4 cents a gallon, hasn't been raised since 1993. But if most or all of the proceeds were returned to consumers, in the form of lower payroll taxes, the impact on the economically vulnerable would be minimized.

After September 11th, Bush had an opportunity to propose such a plan, telling Americans that they could join the war on terror by paying more for gasoline and using less of it. Franklin D. Roosevelt proved after Pearl Harbor that fear can be a powerful spur to civic virtue. Bush, in his address to Congress on September 20, 2001, did not invoke anything like the Rooseveltian 'privilege of self-denial.' Instead, he promised to protect us from terrorism, 'eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.'"

Thanks to Edward A.Mainland via Sierra Club Energy listserv

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Published on Monday, May 15, 2006 in The New Yorker
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