If a story involves President Trump, it’s bound to elicit strong reactions. If it’s about taxes, double that.
A recent story I wrote on Trump’s support for a hiking the federal gas tax drew familiar tirades from a few Trump defenders. “FU** YOU AND YOUR FAKE YAHOO NEWS,” a reader named Doc emailed. He didn’t criticize the story specifically, but claimed, “You’re reporting is full of LIES!” He insisted, correctly, that “jobs are up” under Trump, while claiming incorrectly that “faith in America is at an all-time high.” In reality, Americans overall are less happy with the direction of the country than they were under President Obama, according to a Real Clear Politics composite of polls on the question.
There were some insightful, substantive questions about the prospect of raising the gas tax. “What about those who drive non-gas vehicles that pay no gas tax and use the roads? Also hybrids that use less? User-based taxes must be fair and apply to all.” Great questions. Electrics still account for far less than 1% of all cars on the road, but high-mileage hybrids are fairly popular, plus, cars today get much better mileage than in the past, which means drivers buy less gas and the federal gas tax has less purchasing power than it used to. Possible alternatives to taxing gasoline, which is a 20th-century idea, after all: taxing the miles people drive, adding a federal tax to state-issued car registrations, or simply raising tolls and instituting them on more roads.
On Twitter, @ScoobyDooo99 had this to say: “You obviously don’t live in the land of the fruits and nuts where Jerry Brown is stealing 50 cents a gallon for nothing.” The gas tax in California isn’t quite that high, but it’s close. Under tax hikes passed in 2017, the California gas tax will rise to 47.3 cents per gallon in 2019, and be indexed for inflation after that. So it will hit 50 cents per gallon at some point.
Most of that money is supposed to be used for roads, bridges and other forms of transportation in the state. But voters are right to be skeptical, since politicians routinely siphon off tax money for various pet projects. Would the feds do that if they raised the federal gas tax? Always possible.
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman