Posts Tagged 'roads'

I, A Tax Non-Begrudger

If you’re stressing over your taxes being due today, I empathize. I have SO been there (though not any more. Here are my tips on breaking free of credit card and consumer debt.) Now I am a tax non-begrudger. I willingly pay taxes because I want to live in the civilized kind of society they make possible.

I see roads and highways as the most valuable collaboration of all us U.S. taxpayers. They are also the biggest chink in the armor of the Ayn-Rand-libertarian-tax-begrudging folks. Try living a life without roads. We couldn’t get to work, school or grocery stores without the roads our taxes are buying. They cost trillions of dollars. Libraries and fire and police services are other cool value-adds that taxes buy, and that make me a tax non-begrudger.

HOWEVER. I do object to bad stewardship of taxes. The biggest offender is the Iraq war, costing us over 341 million per day. My strongest objection here is to the obscene loss of life. More insidious is the unprecedented national debt it is incurring, which my attorney friend Jack actually terms treasonous on the part of the Bush administration because it sabotages our nation’s future. I’d have to agree with his assessment.

That said, I still am a tax non-begrudger because taxes allow civilized society to sustain itself, allow things for the greater good to be financed. I reject the terms ‘tax burden’ and ‘tax relief’ because they pander to the irresponsible child in each of us. If you imagine you don’t need any greater-good things like roads, or fire and police services and a national legal system, please tell me your plan for staying alive. Taxes are just another cost of living that adults pay, like rent and utilities.

It’s easy to think we’d be happier if we got to spend all our money on luxuries instead of taxes. Read The Peak of Happiness to learn why that’s not true. Happy April 15th to you, and please post a comment if you like (right under the title of this post). Tomorrow I’ll report on my first meeting that I’m having tonight with my CRAG group (in which my household will pay self-imposed fines, like taxes, for using carbon over a certain amount.)

Photo courtesy of blmurch.


Peak-Hour Tolls And Global Warming

I’m intrigued by (Oregon) Governor Kulongoski’s speech last Friday on transportation and global warming. It’s not many politicians who are brave enough to consider peak-hour tolls, which are also known as congestion pricing.

London and Stockholm have found that these reduce rush-hour traffic by about 20%, which is huge in the transportation context. The tolls were highly unpopular at first, but became more accepted as people found themselves spending less time stuck in congestion.

I agree that peak-hour tolls are the right thing to do. Why? My personal willingness to pay them stems from my deep concern about global warming. In terms of fiscal policy, we sorely need pricing signals that reflect real costs of services. Oregon’s gas tax has not risen since 1993. But inflation has progressed so that our gas tax is now only covering 27 cents on the dollar of our actual road transportation costs. Most of our highways were constructed to last for 50 years — and were built about 50 years ago.

That means that Oregon is going further in the hole financially with every mile driven and gallon of gas consumed. And our atmosphere is going further in the hole at the same time, since every gallon of gas we burn creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is the primary source of global warming.

The Governor’s Climate Change Integration Act named ambitious goals in reducing global warming emissions, while being noncommittal about methods of reaching the goals. His specific idea of requiring drivers to pay part of the real cost of driving via a peak-hour tolling system would reduce vehicle miles traveled, and help Oregon reach those goals.

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