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The PJ Tatler

by
Rick Moran

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October 27, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Politicians are ordinarily a bunch of dullards who can’t put their pants on in the morning without assistance. But when it comes to developing schemes to separate the taxpayer from their hard earned coin, they are Einsteins, Jobs’, and Edisons all rolled into one.

The latest illustration of this is a plan to help pay for infrastructure repairs by taxing car owners for every mile they drive. This will be accomplished by placing a black box in every automobile in America that will faithfully record every trip you take and generate a report for the government that tells them how much you owe.

Oh – did I mention the device might have GPS so that the government can track you whenever it pleases?

Los Angeles Times:

As America’s road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.

The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.

The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.

The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.

And while Congress can’t agree on whether to proceed, several states are not waiting. They are exploring how, over the next decade, they can move to a system in which drivers pay per mile of road they roll over. Thousands of motorists have already taken the black boxes, some of which have GPS monitoring, for a test drive.

“This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. “There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it.”

The push comes as the country’s Highway Trust Fund, financed with taxes Americans pay at the gas pump, is broke. Americans don’t buy as much gas as they used to. Cars get many more miles to the gallon. The federal tax itself, 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn’t gone up in 20 years. Politicians are loath to raise the tax even one penny when gas prices are high.

“The gas tax is just not sustainable,” said Lee Munnich, a transportation policy expert at the University of Minnesota. His state recently put tracking devices on 500 cars to test out a pay-by-mile system. “This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term,” he said.

Beware when a bureaucrat uses the word “logical” to describe any effort to tax us. I can assure you what’s “logical” to government makes absolutely no sense to the rest of us.

And the technology is also there to listen in to every phone call, read our email, monitor our net surfing, and record our TV viewing habits but we resist the temptation to do that.

Oh…wait.

So, is there an alternative? Yes — raise the gas tax:

Some transportation planners, though, wonder if all the talk about paying by the mile is just a giant distraction. At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area, officials say Congress could very simply deal with the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund by raising gas taxes. An extra one-time or annual levy could be imposed on drivers of hybrids and others whose vehicles don’t use much gas, so they pay their fair share.

“There is no need for radical surgery when all you need to do is take an aspirin,” said Randy Rentschler, the commission’s director of legislation and public affairs. “If we do this, hundreds of millions of drivers will be concerned about their privacy and a host of other things.”

Sorry, but that makes too much sense. It will never fly in the halls of government. So urban populations who can walk to work or take public transportation will avoid paying the gas tax altogether while suburban and rural drivers will pay through the nose.

Where I live, it’s half an hour to a real grocery store, a 45 minute drive to the nearest mall, and an hour to a decent computer store. I imagine there are many millions who find themselves with similar or longer driving distances. We use more gas to get where we’re going, hence we already pay more to service our roads than some urbanites who ride their bike or takes public transportation to work and shop. We don’t have that luxury and never will.

This is an excellent plan to make ghost towns out of the suburbs. That’s not their intent, but the effect on many drivers — especially those who live in the outer rim of suburbs, or “ex-urbs” — will be devastating. They will still have to pay for more gas than others while being socked with the additional expense of a tax on their mileage.

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.

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All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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This will be accomplished by placing a black box in every automobile

If the government does this, I guarantee you that there will be a rash of unexplained static discharges which render the devices unusable. Also the replacements.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just one more observation...

I see the value of pre-1980 model vehicles increasing proportionally to how intrusive the government wants to get, as those vehicles generally didn't have on board computer systems outside of a very rare and few model vehicles.

Even the early to mid-80's vehicles which are equipped with computers don't have extensive computer systems that came later - so not sure if any government mandated black box could even be made to work across the line with all existing hardware/software that was designed and manufactured decades ago from multiple car manufacturers.

What you might be left with is a simple black box that is somehow connected to the odometer cable on older vehicles - but even then it may be problematic getting it to work right.

As such, you COULD end up with the older vehicles being grandfathered and exempted from the new regulations as just being too much headache to deal with and they figure everyone will eventually upgrade to a new vehicle and get caught up in the government regulations anyway.

Might be a good time for people to learn to turn their own wrenches and keep their older vehicles running....
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another thought - what about vehicles that spend most of their time OFF of the paved roads? Those used for hunting, 4-wheeling, etc.

If the tax is supposed to benefit the highway fund, but the vehicle isn't on the highway - what's the point?

Those cities who see this as a positive way to tax should also reconsider for a simple reason - have they thought about how many FEWER people will bother to travel to their urban areas to enjoy a meal or shop or do business when they start consciously having to take into account every mile they drive and then apportion their mileage accordingly?

That weekly trip downtown to enjoy a nice steak just got more expensive in a very direct and intrusive way.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is consistent with Al Gore's vision of the city of the future, where everyone lives within sound of the factory whistle, and every day you pull on your brogans, pick up your lunch bucket, and trudge to work.

Not everyone, of course. You will be able to look up and see the big white mansion on the hill, famed in song and story.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Typical government solution - intrusive and expensive.

I have no problem with a charge per mile (after all, we are using the roads), PROVIDED:

1) Gas taxes are eliminated.
2) It's done in a simpler, less Big-Brotherish way. Most, if not all states have a registration and/or inspection system which has to be done yearly. Make the mileage report one of the items checked, and a bill generated.

But no, the technocrats have to do it in the most intrusive way possible.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
What segment of the transportation industry places the most strain on roads and bridges? How about diesel trucks pulling 53' trailers with 80,000 pound loads? Did you know that the cost of fuel to run those trucks is tax deductible as a normal business expense? Can you see several possible solutions here?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bring it. Gonna be hard to tax me since the box will never leave my garage. (the car, on the other hand, will drive around as normal)
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would not be surprised if what you describe will be called criminal tampering, with severe penalties.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
A possible alternative would be some type of container to be sealed around this box, inhibiting its ability to transmit data to any curious government types.

Still have to provide the mileage but their ability to track you would be considerably limited.

Also, I do believe that it would eventually prove the theory that the more onerous a law is the more the public will ignore it.

In this case, it would be the law making it illegal to tamper with odometers and the government little black boxes. Screwing with either would become common and widespread.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"An extra one-time or annual levy could be imposed on drivers of hybrids and others whose vehicles don’t use much gas, so they pay their fair share."

So...being frugal and/or not wanting to spend as much on fuel now equals not paying a "fair share" eh?

I love it...Obama place crushing minimum fuel standards on the auto industry forcing them to get better gas mileage and now politicians a penalizing the people for getting good gas mileage!
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yet another mechanism to bring Agenda 21 to the USA. Since the goal of Agenda 21 is to move everyone into densely populated urban centers, making it prohibitively expensive to live in rural and suburban areas will help force people into the hive cities the plan calls for. Of course, our leaders will need to enjoy the peace and solitude of the country because their work of running our lives for us is SO demanding ...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Fed snoops, the states stalk.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not. Going. To. Happen.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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