A while back, while floating my own idea for a Tax Tax, I noted that the munchkins of Big Government were field-testing an idea to tax us based on how much we drive in Minnesota. Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill tells us this idea has now dropped out of a tornado to crush the American taxpayer on the yellow brick road outside Washington, as “the Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.”
This bill would create yet another government agency, the Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office, which gets $200 million in funding over the next six years to create a “study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems.” In other words, they’ll blow hundreds of millions of tax dollars designing a computerized, wireless monitoring system that can be forcibly installed in every American vehicle, to monitor how much we drive, and compute an exciting new tax based on the results uploaded to the IRS.
Of course it will run over budget, like every other government agency. Of course there will be a thousand unforeseen consequences lurking within whatever system they devise. You probably thought of a least a dozen in the time it took you to read this paragraph. What happens if your IRS Vehicle Monitoring System malfunctions? How much will it cost the government to send mileage cops after people who try to hack or disable their monitors? What other capabilities, such as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s long-held dream of jamming cell phone communications in the interest of driver safety, will the government decide to add to these wondrous devices?
This new tax would be lumped on top of the already vast taxes collected by federal and state governments on the sale of gasoline. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and most states add at least that much. Pennsylvania, New York, and Wisconsin are charging over 30 cents per gallon.
Like all taxes, the Movement Tax would become a new instrument of control over an increasingly less free population. It would swiftly be riddled with exemptions for activities the government finds virtuous, such as using alternative fuels, or driving places the government wants you to go. If you doubt these vehicle monitors would track your exact movements, just wait until the first Democrat proposes mileage tax exemptions for driving to school, or commuting to high-speed rail stations. It won’t take long to create a constituency that demands GPS and mapping functions be added to the monitors and linked to IRS computers.
Ideas like the Movement Tax make it more difficult to argue that President Obama, and longtime sponsors of this nutty idea like Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), are not trying to deliberately sabotage the American economy. Tax something and you get less of it, always. People who don’t like the idea of being tracked like wild geese by the federal government will find ways around driving or buying cars. Environmentalists will see this as a feature, not a bug, but it will also cause the Movement Tax to bring in less revenue than expected, as is the case with every new tax. That will result in higher Movement Taxes, rising deficits, and more bleating that Americans aren’t taxed nearly enough. The damage to our economy from a dramatically less mobile population of workers and consumers will be enormous… and, of course, “unexpected.” Intentionally or not, this is a plan that will make America stop moving.
Tell me again who the radicals are: the people who want to bring this deranged government under control by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, or the people who want to create a new $200 million government agency to study the feasibility of installing a government tracking system in each and every one of the millions of vehicles parked in American driveways.