f/k/a . . . the archives

April 30, 2008

the summer gas tax holiday: hot air from the panderpols

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 5:15 pm

Pump-Pandering Politicians: It’s great to see that so many news sources and websites are putting a penetrating spotlight on the proposals by the presidential candidates, as well as other federal and state politicians (like Messrs. Bruno and Tedisco in New York), to remove the gas tax over the summer. A Newsday editorial summed it up: “A proposal for such tiny, temporary, iffy savings is a political gimmick, not meaningful relief.” (“No such thing as a free tank: No gas tax for the summer is a bad idea“, April 30, 2008). For more analysis, see:

  • Tax cut could push gas prices higher” (CNNMoney.com, April 29, 2008) “Despite claims from McCain and Clinton, temporary cut in gas taxes could lead to more demand and push prices higher – leaving taxpayers to cover shortfall.”
  • Candidates’ Plans Could Indirectly Raise Gas Prices: Senators Back Steps That Portend Higher Pump Costs,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2008
  • Dumb as We Wanna Be” by Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, April 30, 2008), which opines, “It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. . . This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.”

See the video clip — “Who Can Lower Gas Prices? The Candidates’ Plans: The Gas Squeeze: Will lifting the gas tax provide some relief?” — from Good Morning America/ABCNews (April 30, 2008)

And, listen to analysis on the Gas Tax Holiday from the PBS NewsHour — RealAudioDownload (April 30, 2008), or read the transcript.

  • Democrats Divided Over Gas Tax Break” by John Broder, The New York Times (29 Apr 2008), which has a description of the presidential candidates’ current and prior positions on gas taxes, and points out (emphasis added):

“The highway trust fund that the gas tax finances provides money to states and local governments to pay for road and bridge construction, repair and maintenance. Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton propose to suspend the tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the peak driving season, which would lower tax receipts by roughly $9 billion and potentially cost 300,000 highway construction jobs, according to state highway officials.”

update (May 1, 2008): Today’s NYT editorial “The Gas-Guzzler Gambit” also uses the word pander and explains why “it is an expensive and environmentally unsound policy that would do nothing to help American drivers.”

The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon, about 5% of the average price today. Savvy f/k/a readers probably didn’t have to read an article to wonder why we would expect the oil companies to automatically pass on the savings from a gas tax hiatus. In addition, if you’ve been reading about the plight of many independent gas stations, you might also expect the stations to try to pocket some of the tax savings for themselves. See, e.g., “Stations hope you fill up with more than gas: Fuel is loss leader for many; they make money in convenience stores,” (msnbc.com, April 1, 2008)

If you want to feel even worse about all this, and the related subject of reducing our nation’s gasoline consumption, read a little about the Price Elasticity of Demand for Gasoline; and see “Soaring Gas Prices Will Not Reduce Demand.”

Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand? We’re not naming names (due to our political-punditry hiatus), but see “Clinton Criticizes Obama Over Gas Tax Plan: Knocks Obama’s Opposition To Summer ‘Gas Tax Holiday,’ Which She And McCain Support” (CBSNews.com, April 28, 2008); “Obama Dismisses Gas Tax Holiday: Senator Says Gimmick Won’t Help Consumers, Designed To Get Rivals Through Election” (AP/CBSNews.com, April 29, 2008); and “McCain wants a gas tax ‘holiday.’ It’s a no-brainer, right?,” (The Oil Drum: Europe, April 15, 2008)

update (May 2, 2008): Yesterday, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew, a superdelegate, switched his presidential endorsement to Barack Obama. See “Longtime Clinton ally Joe Andrew defects to Barack Obama” (Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2008) At a news conference Thursday, Andrew said:

“Clinton’s support for a federal gas-tax holiday over the summer was symbolic of a poll-driven candidacy proposing something ‘politically expedient to give a quick pander to Hoosier voters,’ in contrast to what he called the ‘principled’ campaign Obama has run.”

We think the gas-tax-holiday issue can tell us a lot about our so-called leaders. Who is willing to tell us the truth? Who treats voters like adults? Who is worried about the long-run and not just the next election? It also tells us a lot about the voting public: Who will demand a simplistic “solution” even if it might in fact be counter-productive, just to get a few extra bucks in their pocket now.

- for other posts on issues related to gasoline consumption see: post-Earth Day spread: speed limits and efficient driving; Open Letter to Gas Whiners and Another Silly One-Day Gas Boycott

- update (May 25, 2008):  Jim Tedisco, Republican leader in the NYS Assembly, continues to pander over the Memorial Day weekend, in the Op/Ed piece “To help achieve lower gas prices, make your voice heard” (Sunday Gazette, May 25, 2008).

follow-up (May 8, 2008): There’s an excellent editorial in today’s NYT, “The Tax Trickery Spreads(New York Times, May 8, 2008) Among points made:

  • “Unfortunately, their [Senators Clinton and McCain] demagoguery is growing into a real problem, setting off a chain reaction of “me too” proposals across the country to suspend state gasoline taxes, which tend to be much larger than the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal levy. If the pandering spreads, it would go a long way in setting the nation’s energy strategy in precisely the wrong direction.”
  • “These ideas share a common purpose: appearing to be doing something to ease hard-pressed voters’ pain at the pump. Not only are they costly, but they will not do that. Suspending the federal tax would cost $9 billion. In New York, the suspension would blow a $500 million hole in state finances. Consumers in some states could benefit from lower state gas taxes because wholesalers could import gas from other states. Still, with refineries producing almost at full capacity, the tax break would prompt a jump in demand that would push up prices.”

If you’ve read and considered all of the above, you surely deserve a treat. Here are more poems from the newest issue of Acorn (No. 20, Spring 2008) — which, among its 100+ poems, contains contemporary haiku by a number of our f/k/a Honored Guest Poets:

nearby clouds
nearby mountains
the rescue helicopter hovers

… by Gary Hotham

a cat at a threshold I can’t see sniffs something I can’t smell

icy night
a saw-whet etches
the silence

………. by jim kacian

spring at last
letting the stallion out
into the pasture

….. by Randy M. Brooks

quick-running brook . . .
a stone from the bottom
lighter than imagined

……………… by paul m.

fumbling
with coat buttons
autumn rain

……………. by Yu Chang

Lightning-cracked rain –
his palm rests against
the bottle’s black label

Dead-end road –
shadows of skinny cows
through old barbed wire

……… by Rebecca Lilly

All Souls
a third day
of candy

………….. by John Stevenson

1 Comment

  1. I understand that it won’t help much, but isn’t something better than nothing? Hopefully some real policy regarding this issue surfaces soon and relieves the nation of this burden.

    [Editor's Note: I put the commentor's name in the Name block above (which had a tag for his business), and deleted his URL, because this looked far too much like Comment Spam.]

    Comment by Chris Christopherson — August 14, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

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