No Gas Tax Roll Back: 283 Signers and Counting

-

cathymann.jpg
Catherine Mann of the Brandeis University Business School is the latest addition to an impressive roster of people opposed to any flirtation with a rollback of the gas tax. I signed up last week.
I think that the chances of this proposal coming to pass declined a lot last night — but I’m glad principled public intellectuals are expressing themselves on this.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

33 comments on “No Gas Tax Roll Back: 283 Signers and Counting

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    18.5 billion back into the economy for other means a day on the gas tax relief. Who needs cheaper food anyways? Let them eat emissions standards!

    Reply

  2. Kathleen says:

    Carroll… plus, I used to have a life, pre-2000…now I’m on 24/7 citizens’ watch.. I feel like I’m in the civil defense, watching for enemies of the Constitution and seeing them all over the place, plain as day, with guarantees of no consequences from the so-called opposition party. Merde.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    Okay Carroll, now I’m really depressed. It wasn’t enough to have Myanmar with perhaps 100,000 dead, and a million displaced.
    So here’s a little more to add: we no longer count the unemployment rate, the inflation rate, or the poverty rate in any reasonable way. Over the years each stat has lost its informative value and we’re really in far worse shape. There’s even a substantial debate on the right that the poverty level should change because now people have cell phones and better computers nd the like than we used to — cell phone service, then, somehow compensates for supporting a family of 4 on less than 20,000 dollars….

    Reply

  4. WigWag says:

    POA, as I think I’ve mentioned to you previously, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both promised that if they’re elected, they will reverse the decsion of the EPA to refuse to grant a waiver to California (and all the states that follow California’s policy) for their milage standards. McCain has said he is still thinking about this issue. Is this an important issue; yes. Could Clinton and Obama do more about it; rheotrically, yes; practically, probably no.
    Did you forget to take your meds again today?

    Reply

  5. Carroll says:

    The Facts speak for themselves.
    April 2008, Volume 10, Number 4 Edited by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer
    View this issue as a PDF
    What 8 years of BushCheney have done to our economy
    Harry Truman said, “No man should be allowed to be president who doesn’t understand hogs.” That’s never been more true than it will be for the man or woman who walks into the White House on January 20, 2009.
    If you’ve ever entered an enclosed, industrialized hog facility where hundreds of fattening porcines live out their short lives, you know that the smell of pig excrement completely redefines “stink.” This stench will knock you to your knees, sear your lungs and brain, and make you scream for mercy. For nearly eight years, the White House has been a confined hog pen for corporate porkers, right-wing ideologues, imperialists, autocrats, and other swinish mess-makers. America’s next president must not only set a new direction but will also have to clean up the mess and eradicate the stink left by the Bushites.
    To help presidential contenders, congressional candidates and the rest of us get perspective on the odiferous legacy of the Bush-Cheney regime, the Lowdown is presenting a two-part factual accounting of the administration’s achievements since 2001. This issue will feature Bush’s domestic performance, and the May issue will highlight his international agenda. Hold your nose–and get out your scrubbers.
    The 3 biggest hits to the economy
    #Bush’s tax cuts for the rich have reduced annual tax revenue available for public needs by $300 billion each year.
    #BushCheney’s occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has cost $700 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. That’s about $400 million a day. Nobel Prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz says the tab is well over $2 trillion when you add rehabilitation for injured vets, replacement of military hardware, and the value of things we could have produced (but didn’t) with that money over the past seven years.
    #Bushites have finished off the deregulation of banking that began in earnest during Bill Clinton’s presidency. This ideological madness has caused the collapse of investment funds, banks, and the stock value of corporations that depend on them (which is to say most of Wall Street and much of the financial world), as well as a steep decline in the value of most homes in America and a sharp rise in the cost of living in them.
    Then Now
    U.S. national debt $5.7 trillion $9.2 trillion*
    Real GDP growth over prior 8 years
    4.09% 2.65%
    U.S. trade deficit per year
    $380 billion $759 billion
    Cost of imported consumer goods
    $1,147 billion $1,954
    Value of consumer goods imported from China $102.3 billion $322 billion
    (in 2007 China became #1 source of U.S. imported consumer goods)
    Cost of one euro $1.01 $1.45
    Cost of one ounce of gold $319 $892
    U.S. budget surplus/deficit
    +$236 billion $354
    Bush says: “In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth.”(State of the Union speech 2008)
    The facts say: While the overall economy has grown, the wages of the average worker have not even kept up with inflation. Meanwhile, nearly five million more Americans have fallen into poverty since 2001.
    Then Now
    Corporate profits before tax
    $719.2 $1,769.5 billion
    Corporate profits after tax*
    $503.8 Bl. $1,351.9 billion*
    Pharmaceutical company profits
    $30 billion $80 billion
    Cost of imported consumer goods
    $1,147 $1,954 billion
    *Standard & Poor’s 500 top corporations’ profits more than doubled in the period 2001-2005 and reached 8.6% of Gross Domestic Product in 2006–the highest percentage of GDP on record.
    **Drug-companies’ profits continue to be around 18.5% of their sales income, versus 3.1%for other top-500 companies.
    Then Now
    Number of billionaires 186 415
    Their combined wealth $816 billion $3.5 trillion
    Average salary of top 500 corp CEOs in 2007 $15.2 million
    In 2006, buyout mogul Henry Kravis paid himself $51,400…an hour.
    Bush tax cuts to the top 1% 2001 – 2007 $546 billion
    The top 1% include many more Wall Street financiers than CEOs. The 25 highest-paid hedge-fund managers are earning more than the CEOs of the largest 500 companies combined. Several of these fund managers are taking home more than a billion dollars a year. And guess what? Democratic party campaigns get twice as much in contributions from hedge-fund types as do Republicans!
    EARNING Then Now
    Median pre-tax household income $49,158 $48,201
    decrease for African American households under Bush
    $2,766
    decrease for Asian American households
    $1,381
    decrease for Hispanic households
    $1,043
    decrease for white households
    $745
    WORKING
    Salary of full-time minimum-wage earner in 2007 $12,168
    Increase in productivity of American workers under Bush 18%
    Increase in real earnings of American workers under Bush 9%
    Total # manufacturing jobs 17.3 million 14.2 million
    National unemployment rate 3.5% 5%
    Number unemployed Americans 5.6 million 7.7 million
    Number including discouraged or underemployed 9.9 million 13.5 million
    LIVING
    Americans living in poverty 31.6 million 36.5 million
    Americans going hungry according to USDA 31 million 38.2 million
    Total consumer credit debt $7.65 trillion $12.8 trillion
    Personal savings rate +2.3% -0.5%
    HOMEOWNERS & RENTERS
    Increase in number of home foreclosures from 2006 68%
    Households currently at high risk of foreclosure 2 million
    Households paying more than half their income for housing 13 million
    Households unable to afford even the lowest-priced home rentals in the U.S. 2.8 million

    Reply

  6. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    Why were you asked to sign this letter? You don’t really put yourself forward as any kind of expert on energy policy, tax policy or the economics of the petroleum market do you?

    Reply

  7. LInda says:

    As someone who has worked with the elderly for decades, the gas tax holiday is not an answer to their transit program. It is 30-40 years of neglect to the changing demographics of our aging population. The Older Americans Act has never been adequately funded, and this under-funding has been even worse in Bush Administration. It provides for shuttle buses to various locations in areas with a high concentration of elderly, like Miami, for a fare of 25 cents. It also provides for substidized taxi vouchers for trips to physicians. These programs are being cut rather than expanded due to the deficit and the war.

    Reply

  8. Steve Clemons says:

    al75 — apparently not.
    best, steve

    Reply

  9. al75 says:

    Since criticizing your “flag respect” post, I’ve been unable to post comments. Am I being blocked?

    Reply

  10. questions says:

    Going along with POA,
    My mom just gave up driving, and there’s no reliable transit to and from all of the doctor’s appointments. A gas tax holiday isn’t going to save her. Transit is hard on a body, no doubt, but that’s part of the problem. There ought to be reliable, comfortable transit service; there ought to be better zoning so that you don’t have to walk 2 miles to a bus stop. We messed up a lot of stuff in service to car and oil company profits, and to a sense of selfish convenience. We could have done things differently, and, in fact, we’re going to have to do things differently if the headline suggesting $8/gallon gas turns out to be true.
    Regarding CathiefromCanada — the mentally ill person you describe probably shouldn’t have a driver’s license, so the point is irrelevant. Bus shelters can be shaded, heated, made bearable… for Canadian winters and Florida summers. That we don’t have good transit yet isn’t a good reason to make sure we never get good transit.
    WigWag, how about recommending that the gov’t just send 100 dollars to each person who might need it?–a much more effective way to get money into people’s hands. Wait, Bush did this a couple of times (are we on number 3 now?). It didn’t change the world, though it may have eased the pain for a month. Quick fixes that don’t fix anything are not a great idea. We get the illusion of action with no real action. It’s tempting for politicians to give in to this, but not very helpful. And now that a bunch of states are jumping on the idea, gas will go down by 40 or 50 cents a gallon, and then it will go up again.

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “David, I know that you have probably never tried to live exclusively on a social security payment. The answer to your question is that to a person living on just social security, even $5.00 per week is meaningful. I know it’s hard for you to believe, but it’s true.”
    Why don’t you get off your effin’ stump and grow up? Tell me, how much driving do you suppose someone that is totally dependent on Social Security does? Whatya going to do, wigwag, encourage them to increase their driving mileage so they get a substantive savings?
    Stop inventing inane horseshit to defend your candidate.
    Here, I’ll tell ya what, Wigwag. Why don’t you show me one instance of Hillary actively and constructively supporting California in its fight with this politicized and corrupted EPA, and this asshole Johnson’s defiance of a Supreme Court Order, his stonewalling before a Congressional committee, and his complete and utter disregard for the recomendations of his scientific staff and legal staff?
    Of course, I’ve asked you and this Tahoe Editor clown to perform this simple task once before, and neither one of you seem to be able to rise to the effort. It IS a simple task, isn’t it? I mean, if Hillary is truly concerned with protecting the “little guy”, surely she’s interested in taking on the EPA and the auto companies in establishing stringent mileage criterias, right?
    So show us her efforts, wigwag, instead of ceaselessly waving your ridiculous pompoms and telling us what a champion she is for the poor.
    But do us all a favor, will ya? If you can’t fulfill the simple request I make above, at least try to dream up a better rap than the ridiculous kind of drivel I quoted above.

    Reply

  12. Tahoe Editor says:

    Think Clinton’s plan to suspend the gas tax temporarily is a bad idea? A similar measure in Illinois — which Obama backed — seems to have helped consumers.
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/05/06/gas_tax/

    Reply

  13. TokyoTom says:

    Steve:
    It’s nice that you and a host of economists don’t support Hillary Clinton’s gamesmanship over gas taxes.
    However, there are some serious issues about gas taxes, energy regulation and transportation spending that are worth considering, including whether the federal gas tax should be eliminated and the job of building and maintaining “interstate” highways be turned over to the states.
    The federal role in building highways – maintained by gas taxes – that are free to use has contributed substantially to a constellation of problems, including suburban sprall, the lack of economies for mass transit systems, the Walmarting of small towns and to the advantages of corporate agriculture over locally produced food.

    Reply

  14. CathiefromCanada says:

    Nor can some people stand at a bus stop for long when its 20 or 30 below either — we had a case this last winter where a mentally ill man refused to get on bus after bus, just kept standing at the bus stop, and finally one of the bus drivers realized he had been there for two hours and she called the police who got him to hospital before he died of the cold — which he was actually pretty close to doing.
    Regarding the gas tax issue, I thought Paul Krugman made a good point by saying that economists are making too much of the whole issue.

    Reply

  15. WigWag says:

    And questions, one last thing. In your post you refer to bus routes. Many people who have commented on this issue have mentioned public transportation. Sure, public transportation should be improved. Sure, it’s part of the answer. But the United States isn’t Norway and it isn’t Sweden. The geography of our country is just not as amenable to public transportation as might be the case in smaller, more urban nations. I know that public transportation is the politically correct response to the global warming problem. But to those of us in South Florida, the idea of a 75 year old man or woman standing at a bus stop in the blazing sun as the temperature approaches 90 degrees doesn’t sound particularly realistic.

    Reply

  16. WigWag says:

    Questions, I just disagree with you, I think a gas tax holiday just might reduce the price of gasoline for a couple of months without doing the damage you site.
    But I especially disagree with this statement, “The economists who oppose this program do so because they know it’s fake, not because they have comfortable lives and begrudge your neighbors 5 bucks a week.” Actually they disagree with it because they are afraid it might lower prices, at least temporarily. They’ve decided that low gas prices are the problem. As Dan Kervick put it in a previous comment, they like the negative incentive that high gas prices provide. They’ve decided that high gas prices are good for us and they don’t want anything to bring gas prices down. They understand that this will lead to suffering by some people, but they don’t care. They want us to take our medicine, as bitter as it might be, because they think it’s good for us. My point is simply that if they were suffering as severely as the people I know, they might be a little bit more nuanced in their thinking.
    Questions, the economists aren’t afraid a gas tax holiday won’t work, they’re afraid it will.

    Reply

  17. questions says:

    Once again, WigWag,
    The issue isn’t that anyone here thinks money isn’t meaningful (my mom could be one of your neighbors), the issue is that the gas tax savings are not likely to make it to the people who need it. The holiday is a fake issue designed to make people vote for the candidate who puts it forth despite the fact that a)it couldn’t pass in time to help b)it wouldn’t really reduce the price were it to pass c)it would cause problems with road and bridge repair d)if the money were taken from a windfall profits tax, the price of gas would go up to cover the tax e)if we take our eyes off long term solutions AGAIN, we’re doing nothing for the next crisis f)road workers lose employment if the money isn’t made up somewhere.
    There are other, better ways to help your neighbors and my mom and even me. Direct subsidies, increased soc. sec. payments, increased food stamps, bus routes, and hey, even nationalized, socialized, single-payer, non-profit health care…. The gas tax holiday is a fake program, not a sign that Clinton and McCain deeply understand how hard it is to live on 15 grand a year. The economists who oppose this program do so because they know it’s fake, not because they have comfortable lives and begrudge your neighbors 5 bucks a week.

    Reply

  18. Daga1 says:

    Many of your people are unbelievable ignorant and shortsighted.
    A pathetic bunch of petroholics bickering over a few cents more pr. gallon. Already you 5% of world’s population consume over 25% of our common resources.
    In Norway we pay $11 pr. gallon, and we want to increase that..maybe up to $15. That way more people will use public transportation.
    The World is like a runaway train heading for the abyss..but you are comfy sitting 1st class and demand more speed.

    Reply

  19. WigWag says:

    David, I know that you have probably never tried to live exclusively on a social security payment. The answer to your question is that to a person living on just social security, even $5.00 per week is meaningful. I know it’s hard for you to believe, but it’s true.

    Reply

  20. Dumass says:

    Good grief… Yes, it’s a bad idea, and pandering too. But come on, “it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation”?? Really?
    Do you and/or the other signatories know even one person who would stop buying costly imported oil in the absence of a gas tax holiday, but would rush out to buy it given an eighteen cent price reduction!! Heh?!
    Similarly Robert Reich slams it because “it would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise”,
    I understand that supply & demand implies that a price reduction should lead to increased consumoption… But again, come on, gimme a break. Where are all the people that will start consuming more gas because it is $3.50 a gallon rather than $3.68 a gallon?
    It’s stuff like this that makes many people think that economists are eggheads that have no idea of the real world.
    Dumass
    P.S. Most of the people I know buy gas (usually refined in the USA), I don’t think I know any that buy “costly imported oil”

    Reply

  21. David says:

    WigWag,
    You actually believe the gas tax holiday would help the people hit hardest by the current price of gasoline? Are you telling me the price at the pump will drop to a level that will make a meaningful difference for those people? The tax holiday is a silly idea that won’t do anything of merit. It will reduce funds available for infrastructure, which means fewer jobs for working class people. You live in an interesting intellectual bubble.

    Reply

  22. WigWag says:

    Thank you Dan Kervick, I don’t agree with you that a gas tax holiday is “economic moonshine” but I’m glad someone here gets it.
    Dan (at 6:30 pm), I apologize for unsettling you but if you think CAFE standards and investments in alternative energy are the answers, you’re living in a different world than I am.
    I live in Ft. Lauderdale, FL surrounded by retired people living on fixed incomes. Some live entirely on social security; many get social security and small pensions or live off the interest on their CDs. In case you haven’t noticed, interest rates are way down. That means whatever investment income these people have has fallen too. Many of my neighbors live on $15,000-$20,000 per year; not the $20,000 per month that the “principled public intellectuals” Steve mentioned probably make.
    Do you have any clue what it’s like to live on that income? If I look in my neighbors’ refrigerators they frequently have only the basics (if they even have that). They struggle to make their condo fees or pay the rent. Many don’t get their medicine because even though they have Medicare Part D, they feel they can’t pay the copayment or they don’t want to incur a deductable. I know this from first hand experience because I have paid for their medicine myself more than once, even though I can’t really afford it either.
    And now, because of high gasoline prices, many of my neighbors are literally prisoners in their own homes. They don’t go out to Bingo, they don’t drive to visit friends, they don’t go to the movies. Why? Because they can’t afford the gas. Trust me, it is important for older people to have a social outlet. High gas prices rob these people of their social outlet and I am afraid that sitting alone at home day after day may have very bad consequences for them.
    I found it particularly poignant when one of my neighbors (she’s 94) asked me why so many people don’t want her vote to count. At 94, with her walker, she struggled to get to the public school to cast her ballot in the Democratic Primary and she wonders why a bunch of politicians don’t want her vote to count. By the way, I have no idea how she voted; when I asked she told me she believes in secret ballots.
    I can’t help but wonder whether the good Dr. Mann mentioned in Steve’s post would feel the same way if she was living on $15,000 per year. I can’t help but wonder how all of you so opposed to the gas tax holdiay would feel if you were in that position yourselves.
    Do you think that only Republicans are judged by how they treat the least among us? Don’t you think the same standards apply to Democrats?

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    Here’s Hillary’s announcement about closing the Enron loophole: http://www.hillaryclinton.com/news/release/view/?id=7354

    Reply

  24. JohnH says:

    Wow! Hillary favors closing the Enron loophole that her husband signed into law in 2000! But why did she wait until a week before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries? Desperation? Opportunism?

    Reply

  25. Scott Paul says:

    Good catch, Steve. I’m glad people are drawing attention to this horrible proposal.

    Reply

  26. Dan Kervick says:

    I don’t support the gas tax holiday, because I think it is distracting economic moonshine, which most likely wouldn’t have the intended effect of actually saving consumers any significant amount at the pump. I am also suspicious of yet another Republican scheme for cutting government revenues, and
    But I strongly agree with the spirit of WigWag’s comments. High energy costs, including for transportation, are a huge cost of living and quality of life issue for working Americans on a tight budget, for whom $100 a week is nothing to sneeze at, and who are seeing their grocery bills soar at the same time as gas prices. The gas tax is also a regressive tax, because the further down one is on the economic ladder, the higher the percentage of one’s income is spent on gas.
    So as long as intellectuals are signing letters against the gas tax, they would be well-advised to put forward alternative short-term and long terms plans for alleviating the energy cost burden on working Americans, and for shifting the cost of transitioning our economy to a more energy efficient system up the economic scale.

    Reply

  27. Tahoe Editor says:

    Hillary has talked more about CAFE standards and other long-term energy strategies more in one day than Obama has in his life. Cropping her comprehensive plan to suit your purposes is disingenuous. This short-term relief plan is part of a much bigger picture. Let’s put it to a referendum and see what the “unimpressive” average voter has to say.

    Reply

  28. JohnH says:

    Now WigWag is concerned about the poor. That is laudable. But is this real, or is it or just more veiled Clinton boosting while ignoring their true record, their total lack of concern for the poor?
    If Clinton was so concerned about the poor, why did she support NAFTA? Why did she let Bill sign PNTR for China? Why did she let Bill sign the law that did away with depression-era laws preventing financial abuses by Wall Street? And why did she let Bill sign the law that let energy traders get special opportunities for manipulating prices (the “Enron loophole?”)
    Hillary expects voters to be stupid, fall for her sudden conversion to populism, get excited about a brief gas tax holiday, and not give a hoot about why gasoline prices are rising in the first place. (Experts say that 20-50% of the rise in gasoline prices is due to unregulated energy trading that her husband enabled by signing the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000.)
    Instead of supporting a gimmick, why doesn’t she just repudiate the “Enron loophole?” Or would that step on the toes of those special interests that she purports to decry?

    Reply

  29. Dan says:

    WigWag,
    I found your attacks unsettling. I’ll repeat what’s true: A repeal of the gas tax will likely provide more revenues to oil companies– not consumers, the “windfall tax” Hillary proposed will never pass Congress or Bush, and greater demand will simply raise prices at the pump.
    There are no easy political solutions to this. I’ll give you the proposals I’m sure Steve and Sen. Bingham support: an investment in alternative energy R&D, energy diversification, and energy conservation measures, such as higher CAFE standards.
    Attacking reasoned thinking and analysis as elitism is just silly. I’ll tell you something the “minimum wage worker” should not give up: their votes to opportunistic politicians who pander to them.

    Reply

  30. WigWag says:

    And the great Catherine Mann whose picture is currently gracing your mast head, this is what a google search about her reveals:
    1)Professor of Economics at Brandeis
    2)Director of a Ford Foundation project on entrepreneurship in Asia and Latin America.
    3)Author of seven books.
    4)In just the past few years, she has “delivered keynote speeches and engaged in projects on technology and policy in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, as well as in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand.”
    I guess the glorious Dr. Mann doesn’t have to worry too much about the price of gas. And I guess she’s not all the worried about global warming either with all the jet fuel she’s been using up on her world wide speaking tour.
    The simple point is that the “haves” lecturing the “have nots” on what’s good for them them is getting harder and harder to take.

    Reply

  31. WigWag says:

    And by the way, I scrutinized the list of intellectuals who signed the letter. It certainly looks like a very prominent group. Of course none of them make less than $50 thousand per year, and I would bet the house that almost all of them make at least $100 thousand per year. If gas gets too expensive for them, they can always cut down to one trip to Starbucks per day instead of the usual two. What do you suggest that the minimum wage worker give up? Lunch? his/her, high blood pressure medication? What should they give up, Steve?

    Reply

  32. WigWag says:

    Steve, every one of the “principled public intellectuals” you refer to can afford the price of gasoline. Professors (even junior faculty)can afford $4.00 gas; Think Tank employees can afford $4.00 gas. Working class people can’t. Minimum wage workers can’t.
    Unless you have a better idea about how to reduce gas prices now, you shouldn’t be celebrating the demise of a proposal that just might make poor people’s lives slightly less uncertain.
    And you’re old boss, the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, we know he’s against a gas tax holiday, but what’s his proposal? His silence has been deafening. His leadership has been nonexistant.
    There’s no two ways about it, if your against the gas tax holiday, but don’t have a solution to propose that will help in the short term, your oblivious to the concerns of tens of millions of Americans.
    I think you should be ashamed.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *