In the Arena

Pelosi: No Gas Tax Holiday

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Hurray for Nancy Pelosi! She opposes the summer gas tax holiday, which means it probably won’t happen. (At least, I hope she has the votes to stop it.) The tax holiday is the worst sort of empty political posturing for these reasons:

1. Gasoline prices probably won’t fall. It’s doubtful that the oil companies will pass along the savings–it certainly will be difficult to tell, since gas prices usually rise this time of year anyway, on summer demand.

2. The gas tax stokes the highway trust fund, which is spent on job-rich infrastructure renewal projects. Cutting the trust fund could well cost jobs in an extremely iffy economy. (or raise the deficit, if the government decides to go ahead with the highway projects anyway.)

3. It sends the wrong signal. It encourages something we don’t want to see: greater oil consumption–and continuing dependence on foreign oil. The public has to start getting used to the fact that high oil prices probably aren’t coming down–the Chinese and Indians are guzzling, and supplies will soon dwindle, if they haven’t already. People should be driving less, using mass transit or more fuel-efficient vehicles.

At his town meeting in Winston-Salem the other day, Barack Obama fielded a comment from a woman who said that after the meeting she was going across town to give $20 for fuel costs to a woman who has to drive some distance every day to work a minimum wage job–there is apparently a community-wide project to help such people…and if there is any argument at all for gasoline tax relief, it would be to help the working poor. But Obama had a thoughtful answer to this problem: he said that he was proposing payroll tax relief for families with incomes under $75,000 (if you must give tax breaks, this is the best way to do it) to ease that burden, but that the long-term answer had to be an Apollo project to produce less-expensive alternative fuels and more fuel-efficient cars in the next decade. That seems to me the only answer. It is more than a little disappointing that Hillary Clinton, who has an excellent energy plan–and John McCain, a rare Republican who acknowledges the global warming crisis–have succumbed to the gas tax holiday pander. Obama gets props for standing firm.