Friday, March 14, 2008

We're Fueling Taxation Without Representation

You know what I think would help the American people more than any unoriginal, unimaginative tax rebate checks? A repeal, or at least suspension, of the Federal Government's (and any State Government's) fuel tax. That makes infinitely more sense than just handing out money that, sooner instead of later, will inevitably be spent on gas. As anyone who owns a vehicle knows, that that money will probably end up mostly paying for gas (instead of a new flat-screen TV or Blu-ray player) isn't a matter of choice. It's a consequence of necessity.

I find myself reminiscing quite often these days about how my travel expenses - not counting the PATH train to work in New Jersey - were $76 a month whilst residing in New York City. $76 would get me thirty days of unlimited NYC Subway, NYC Bus, and even Long Island Bus trips. Sure, if I had wanted to take the Long Island Rail Road somewhere, that was an extra expense - but it was an extra expense well worth the price. Money that might otherwise have been spent on gas I was able to spend on books, and when I wasn't reading on the Subway, I was able to take pictures with my phone's camera of funny ads like this:

Okay, truth be told, money that might otherwise be spent on gas today is still spent on books...the only difference being that in Tucson, I have need of a car, and as I mentioned, in the days when I was living in Queens and gallivanting around Manhattan...I didn't. The way I see it, books are an investment while gas is a harassment. I enjoy every minute I spend in Barnes & Noble; as it was in NYC, so it is back in Tucson - you have to drag me out, or kick me out, of such stores. Not so with gas stations - at most, each visit is a very unsatisfying quickie.

Why are tax rebates the only thing Washington can come up with? We're the folks who landed on the Moon, shot down an errant spy satellite from a moving Navy ship, got the A-bomb before the Japanese or Nazis could, and put into practice what European intellectuals in the 18th century could only talk and dream about. We're the leaders of the Free World - whatever the foreign minister of France says. We should be able to come up with better ideas than this. And we - the people - do. It's our government that's unimaginative when it comes to such nonsense.

Okay, so it's not exactly nonsense - a lot of people, a
lot, will be thanking their lucky stars when their rebate checks arrive in the mail. Of course, we can't count on them to do the smart thing, and save, because they've likely listened to the Federal Government's advice and heard Washington's hopes, and intend on spending away whatever money they get as soon as possible. But like I said...that money isn't going to go all that far, if gas prices continue to fluctuate (up and down, but mostly up) as they have. Big Oil - and Big Politics - will be the ultimate benefactors - not Mr. and Mrs. America.

I would love to see millions upon millions of Americans purchase a hearty supply of fuel containers, fill 'em up with a month's - or even a week and a half's - worth of gasoline, and then let the oil companies squirm from lack of continued business. I'd love to see sit-in-car strikes at gas stations, where people fed up with ever-rising prices refuse to move their cars until something significant is done. Refuse to move their cars, and refuse to buy anything - anything at all from the convenience store. I'd love to see such things happen, but it likely won't. And why?

Why? Because as we creep toward the 232nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, we're ignorant of the fact - or maybe all too acutely aware - that we haven't the stomach for rebellion that we once did. We're no longer the nation of the Boston Tea Party. Not really. Not anymore. To dress up as Indians would be politically incorrect, and dumping gas would be environmentally damaging. We don't want to offend, and besides - we like driving.

And so, we take what handouts the Government gives us, disbelieve what the Government tells us (yet still listen to it), and pay tax after tax to
our Government for the privilege of being bossed around by unelected Washington bureaucrats. We care more about American Idol, or America Ferrera, than we do about America, the country.

We'll bitch, we'll moan, we'll debate - but we won't do much besides that. We'll vote, but for a slate of candidates that is hardly the best that's ever been presented for our approval. We'll buy into the media's love affair with Barack Obama. And we'll still fill up our cars with gas, fuming the whole time as we smell the fumes and watch the total price of this or that particular fill-up eat away at our savings, our rebate checks, our 401Ks...etc., etc., etc. We'll look at stuff like the blog entry you're now reading, and then forget we ever did.

Unless...well, there are some of us who will do their utmost to spend more on books than they do on gas. Who will go out of their way to spend as little on petrol as is humanly possible, not because they are cheap individuals, but because they know that money can be better spent elsewhere (like, say, on going to see Cloverfield seven times in the month of February). Who will, after spending that money elsewhere, spend it once again on more and more books. And more books.

So long as gas prices head skyward, so long as Washington, Phoenix, Albany, Sacramento, etc. fiddle while our bank accounts burn and implement tax rebates rather than tax cuts, meaningful tax cuts...for all of America's Drivers....this is what we'll do. At least, people like me, people who still like to read.

I know we have our Congress, our President, our Governors, our State Legislatures and Assemblies, but if you ask me, "taxation without representation" in some sense still afflicts us today as it did in Colonial times.

The only difference between the late 18th century and the early 21st century is that instead of an overbearing, power-mad Parliament taxing us from thousands of miles away in England, we have a power-mad, overbearing, interested-more-in-our-vote-than-in-our-well-being Federal Government taxing-us-until-we-die-and-taxing-us-after-we-die from Washington (and our State capitals).

If we truly had
representation, we'd know it. Believe me, we'd know it.

We'd feel it in our wallets. A lot more often than we do.

"To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government."
- Henry David Thoreau


grayson said...

I knew you had a libertarian streak buried in you somewhere. Well done.

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