GUMMY BEARS FOR DINNER

Posted in Rants on May 13th, 2008 by Ed

Death Valley, CA has one of the (if not the) highest pump prices for gasoline in the Lower 48. On my vacation there in 2004 I distinctly recall staring open-jawed at a Shell sign advertising regular unleaded for $3.20/gal – shocking, given that the rest of the nation was at $2.

Gas stands at $5.16/gal at that same Death Valley Shell station today. Insane, right? Why in the hell does it cost so much? The second comment on the linked video resolves this for us:

Perhaps CA should have less tax.

You could set your watch to right-wing rhetoric, so constant (not to mention grammatically incorrect) it is. Yes, California has the highest gasoline taxes in the nation. State and Federal taxes add up to 62.8 cents. In the example at hand, eliminating these taxes would drop the regular unleaded price to $4.53/gal. For fuck's sake, that's practically giving it away!

Ahh, the "gas tax holiday." I've been to two State Fairs and a Carrot Top show, yet this proposal is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Everything you need to know about how Hillary Clinton has gone off the rails (and McCain was there to begin with) is encapsulated in this half-assed pander. In fact, to describe it as "off the rails" is too generous; this idea missed the train altogether, sleeping through its alarm after another long night of angrily masturbating to Milton Friedman's Essays in Positive Economics.

The Federal excise tax on gasoline is the same in every state: 18.4 cents per gallon. I drive a 2000 Nissan Sentra with a 1.8L engine. As I drive very little, I fill up once per month with a 12 gallon fuel tank. The Federal tax costs me $2.20 per month. I spend more on gum.

Maybe I'm atypical. Replace me with a person who has an average sedan (15 gallon tank) and drives a ton (weekly fill-ups). This person pays $11.04 per month – on $231 per month of gasoline (assuming $3.85/gal). A "holiday" would reduce this person's costs to $220 per month. For three months. Total savings: $33. Half a tank. Over three months.

That McCain pimps this steaming ball of suck is unsurprising. I'm just embarassed for Clinton at this point, though. Transparent pandering. The amazing thing is that even right wing economists think this is a bad idea. The only people who think it is a good idea are A) people who respond to the phrase "tax cut" like salivating dogs and B) desperate politicians.

So many questions, so few answers. How does this pittance amount to "relief for working families?" How are the Federal Highway Trust funds, upon which Congressional pork relies, to be replaced? What makes anyone think that gasoline producers and retailers will pass the savings on to consumers? More importantly, can anyone point to a single argument or economist willing to state that this isn't a terrible idea? That question has been put to both Hillary and a McCain surrogate:

Clinton: "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists. We've got to get out of this mind-set where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans."

Carly Fiorina: "No, I can't, but, you see, I don't think it matters. … An American family who is sitting around the kitchen table wondering how they're going to pay for groceries, fill their gas tank, whether they're going to stay in their home, whether or not they can send their kid to college this fall. For them, the economy is in difficulty, and all the theoretical discussion is, sort of, irrelevant."

Translation: two different flavors of Argumentum ad Populum with some anti-Ivory Tower rhetoric (from two people with Ivy League postgraduate degrees) for good measure. Who cares what those eggheads say about the tax – Americans really want it! I suppose that when my 6 year old nephew really wants to eat gummy bears for dinner his argument has about as much merit.

The right loves to use the "liberal nanny state" as a combination Straw Man/insult. If they dislike maternalism, maybe they should stop acting like fucking children. I'm not sure I can think of a non-maternalistic way to put things when forced to explain concepts like "What's popular isn't always right" or "Just because you want it doesn't mean you can have it" or "Don't fill up on Twizzlers." Present an argument or proposal that isn't an adult expression of the childish See-Want-Get-Put in Mouth impulse and maybe my rebuttal will not sound like it is coming from a babysitter.