One reason that less than 10 percent of the $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill is earmarked for fixing roads and bridges may stem from another insidious provision of the bill intended to make those same roads and bridges unnecessary.
Tucked away in the 2,700-page bill is a provision for a pilot program to tax motorists by the number of miles they drive. At first glance, this provision may seem like a reasonable idea.
Road repair is supposed to be funded by federal and state gas taxes. The federal gas tax is 18 cents per gallon, and state gas taxes range from Alaska’s 14 cents to California’s 61 cents per gallon. Those gas taxes may be insufficient to maintain and expand roads, bridges, and related infrastructure. No one is debating that.
President Biden just issued an executive order setting a goal for 50 percent of the new car fleet to be electric or hybrid cars by 2030. Moving past the legality of that Soviet-style diktat, if that goal were to be met, the drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles would (obviously) escape the gas tax almost entirely even as they contributed their share of wear and tear on roads and bridges.
So, an argument can be made that if there will be more gas tax-avoiding electric vehicles, they must somehow be taxed for their share of road and bridge maintenance. Taxing them by the mile probably makes the most sense. Moreover, gas taxes could be eliminated, and all cars and trucks could be taxed on the same basis.
But that is a superficial and probably inaccurate analysis of the situation.
As I explained in my 2009 book: “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery), radical greens (which means all greens) don’t want you in any car in the first place.
Cars, you see, have given us unprecedented freedom to go where we want, when we want. At current gas prices, you can fill up a full-size SUV and drive 400 miles in any direction, fuel up in a few minutes and keep going. Worse than freedom, cars have allowed Americans to move to ever-sprawling suburbs, which the greens definitely hate (even though many live there themselves).
The green view of the world is that we should be living vertically in urban areas versus horizontally in suburban spaces. One plan for making that happen is waging war on cars.
You may have noticed how green-run local governments do everything they can to make driving unpleasant. They started with more speed bumps and roundabouts and expanded into fewer and smaller parking spaces. Cities are converting street parking into bike lanes. Exploiting COVID-19, local governments turned entire streets into pedestrian walkways and may leave them that way permanently.
Greens have made driving itself very expensive. Although we are awash in oil, the incessant push for more stringent fuel economy standards has made cars very expensive and less safe. The average age of a car in the U.S. today is 12 years. People are forced to drive older, less safe cars because the new models are just too expensive. Then they buy a new, used car.
What does all this have to do with a mileage tax?
One way to enforce a mileage tax is to require periodic speedometers checks and assessments, like emissions testing. But that’s probably too cumbersome, even for the government. Another way would be to utilize transponder technology like EZ-Pass and require that you keep money in an account or get ticketed and fined.
If that isn’t Orwellian enough for you, yet another way would be to make new cars come with onboard computers that automatically report your mileage, as well as your destinations and driving habits, to the local taxing authority. Getting to your destination ahead of posted speed limits might just get you an additional charge.
If you fail to pay your mileage tax assessments on time or the government doesn’t want to drive that day for whatever reason, maybe the device will just make your vehicle temporarily inoperable.
The possibilities for government control of your driving freedoms via enforcement of a mileage tax are limitless. If, after the imposition of all these anti-car inconveniences, you still don’t voluntarily give up your car and move into your Soviet-style urban apartment building, maybe the government will just remotely shut your vehicle down because it can.
Look at what we’re are still going through with COVID-19. Does anyone think for a second that this sort of government tyranny is not possible?
• Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA.”