John McCain and Hillary Clinton have both supported the idea of a “Gas Tax Holiday“. The whole idea of a Holy Day to celebrate the worship of socialized transportation catered by Santa Clinton/McCain seems pretty absurd to me. Nonetheless, they expect pandering to gas-addicted voters to pay off in their election hopes.
Unfortunately, such a gas holiday would burden the deficit, incentivize the burning of fossil fuels, and further socialize our transportation system. Highway advocates currently cling to arguments that roads are more “free-market” than transit because the costs of maintaining the highways are paid by the user through gas taxes and user fees. That is a myth to be debunked in future posts, but the argument would be void during McCain’s new “holiday”. And, with future tax money footing the bill instead of gas users, we would have a full blown transfer of wealth from the responsible taxpayers who don’t depend on petroleum to the gas guzzlers and petroleum industry.
I propose a more free-market solution at the federal level – get out of the transportation business altogether! The federal government would end the gas tax permanently, but at the same time deed the entire federal highway system over to the individual states where the highways are located, and abolish the Department of Transportation over a span of a few years. The individual states would be free to handle their transportation as they see fit, as long as the they do not diminish the military’s ability to mobilize forces for defense. States could pay for maintenance of the assets in ways that best suit them, whether it be a gas tax, tolls, property taxes or states could actually raise money through complete privatization of the new assets.
Besides easing the burden on the deficit, getting the federal government out of transportation would bring earmarks to a screeching halt. States would no longer have to fork over money to fund highway work that benefit other states such as the Big Dig boondoggle. It wouldn’t end pork completely, but if McCain is serious about pork, this is a sure fire way to suffocate the trend.
But, Obama should love the idea too. Environmentalists and alternative fuel buffs often have disdain for market solutions, but could be convinced of the benefits of more free-market transportation as opposed to the gas-guzzling, sprawling, Wal-Mart-friendly inefficiencies of a socialized transportation system. The costs of driving decisions would be brought closer to the user, and the average drivers will make decisions differently as they would more directly effect themselves. In the long, people would change their driving habits, and choose to live in less auto-dependent locations. More often than not, that would mean burning less fossil fuels.
Then again, if Hillary can bring us free healthcare, why not free gas?….