Friday, May 2, 2008

HRC Bites JLT's Gas Plan...which Bites Itself!

Talk about an unexpected ally. Jill Long-Thompson must be pinching herself. Hillary Clinton comes into town and morphs her campaign into a referendum on....a gas tax holiday, an idea JLT has been pushing for months now. (Quick note to HRC, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but God also said, "Thou shalt not steal!")

Look, we all know politicians pander, and there are a million ways to do it. But this one is very bad policy. A very big part of our oil dependency is based on our previous runaway consumption of gas guzzling vehicles (a/k/a "SUVs"). When gas was cheaper than bottled water, a bunch of folks went out and bought these behemoths (compensating for something maybe???) as if the oil supply was inexhaustible. Well, the joke's on you! So now I'm supposed to "bail you out" by essentially subsidizing your bad decision?!?

Yes, I know. You're saying, "Hillary is going to take excess oil company profits to pay for the cost!" Putting aside the suspect constitutional nature of targeting one industry's profits, if we weren't taking those profits to offset your gas taxes, we could INSTEAD use those profits to invest in renewable fuels. How awesome would that be? Taking oil company money to build their competition? Our federal government is washed in debt, so if you're not paying these gas taxes, all the people who AREN'T driving H3s are paying it indirectly in lost opportunity cost to do something REALLY worthwhile with those same dollars.

Now, here's the part that is going to anger a lot of people, but it's time for tough love.

I've always said that we'll start getting GM to build more fuel-efficient vehicles when we feel the pain for a period that is prolonged enough that it changes our purchase habits. I thought it would take years. I'm very wrong. CNN just reported that SUVs now account for only 1 in 5 of new cars sold. Everything else is compact or sub-compact. This is GREAT news for the environment and for our foreign policy. The less we have to bootlick to get Saudi oil, the more likely it is we can pursue some REAL terrorists in the future. While I feel very bad for Michigan car makers (the story reports they don't have enough compacts to compete), wasn't it was their dumb@ss idea to NOT invest in hybrids or fuel-efficient cars?

I love that Americans are optimistic, but sometimes we're foolishly so. We think that nothing bad - like gas price hikes - will ever happen. So we buy inefficient cars, and then when things go bad, we jump at the opportunity for what is essentially a bailout from our elected officials.

No Democrat will say what I'm about to say publicly, but this is the burden of being painfully objective. This cry for gas tax relief is very much like the cry for mortgage foreclosure relief. We want to act like a bunch of predatory lenders are solely responsible for this crisis, but it is just as much the fault of a bunch of irresponsible people who bought more house than they could afford. They jumped on adjustable rate mortgages at the low end, and when the interest rates spiked, they couldn't afford to make their payments. This is, of course, not the full story on foreclosures because under the Bush economy, hundreds of thousands of people (collectively known as "the new Walmart workforce") have lost high-paying manufacturing jobs. But that's not the fault of lenders, is it?

Now, these lenders admittedly have no incentive to tell you how bad things can get under your adjustable loan. That's why I'm a HUGE fan of any law that says lenders have to disclose how high a monthly payment can get under the terms of the ARM. But even if you require disclosure of this information, a LOT of people will still take these loans, just like they'll still keep eating quarter-pounders with cheese after you tell them each one has 26 grams of fat and 510 calories.

Your decisions are your decision, and you're free to make long as you're not asking me to pay taxes to help you because you were stupid with your mortgage, your car, or your lunch. And I don't just feel this way about individuals. Companies make idiotic decisions, too, and we're always bailing them out. Maybe if everybody knew there was no safety net from Uncle Sam, there wouldn't be so many bad decisions.

Let the hate mail begin!!!


1 comment:

legaldiva said...

No hate mail here. I completely agree. This whole pandering to voters on the gas tax issue is sickening. Surely Hoosiers remember the last time we had a gas holiday...we went from a surplus budget to being in the red. It was a nice little band aid while it lasted, but we are still feeling the pinch of that bad decision. I've always driven fuel efficient vehicles because it's the prudent thing to do. I purposely bought a house with a mortgage lower than what I could actually afford so that if and when hard times hit I could still manage. It's not hard folks. Make good decisions and there's no need for the government to come bail you out!