The Obama Administration has resurrected the notion of a per-mile tax on driving our cars. An attempt of this nature would be a 21st century Intolerable Act. Installing a federal tracking device of any sort on our cars and then using it to tax the miles we drive would probably produce an outrage and backlash unlike anything we've seen yet, and I eagerly welcome the Federal Government to try it. It could truly be "a bridge too far" for the forces of the statists.
Naturally, the bill has only been "floated" in order to gauge reaction and shield the President from inevitable negative backlash to such an endeavor, but the attempt offers further proof of the lengths our government will go to tax and control our lives and habits. Motivation for this idea could range from simply "raising highway revenue" to yet another attempt by our betters in Washington D.C. to shape our behavior to their liking. All are unacceptable.
A mileage tracking device could function in two ways that I as a non-technical layman could envisage though I don't doubt the resourcefulness of Big Brother to come up with many more methods. The first way would be similar to the radio frequency identification technology used by major shipping companies and the United States Military to track and locate trucks and consigned shipments. In brief, a tag on a vehicle or package passes an interrogator, which feeds the information to a network and a central database allowing people to see where a given object is. An active system on a given vehicle could communicate to the network and tally mileage each time a vehicle passed an interrogator.
The second, and more likely, would be some sort of event recorder on each vehicle that would add miles to a balance taxed at the end of the year or added to the bill each time you gassed the vehicle.
Either way, it would represent a massive intrusion into the lives of our citizens. While it seems most of the population is tragically medicated into uncaring stupors by garbage television and the fact that relatively speaking, our lives are still good and lost liberties aren't noticed yet, perhaps the time, cost, and general distastefulness of being forced to add any kind of federally mandated tracking device would wake more people up to the evolving evil of Washington D.C.
You could argue that most people do already carry tracking devices, and that this isn't a very big deal. Cell phones, PDAs, On Star and other navigation systems all allow tracking of some sort, but all are privately owned devices and systems, and personal data is protected by the 4th Amendment. A device that would probably be owned by the government, providing tracking data to the government, for potentially unknown uses by the government, is an entirely different story. This should send any real civil libertarian into convulsions, and just might help some of us hitherto sheep-like Americans find their inner colonial revolutionary.
The Intolerable Acts of 1774 were so onerous, and so odious that the colonies were galvanized and the first Continental Congress was called. The increasingly hostile attitude of the king and his increasingly egregious acts turned more people to the patriot cause, loyalists and moderates of the time found it increasingly difficult to justify support of the Crown or Parliament, and the nation came together before tyranny to bring us the American Revolution.
The implementation of a Federal mileage tax would be identified as a 21st century Intolerable Act, and would meet similar resistance among the population just like the Boston Port Act, or the earlier Stamp Act or tea tax. For a more recent example, consider prohibition. While prohibition wasn't a tax issue, it was unpopular, unenforceable, and ended. The mileage tax would be blessedly foolish for the progressives to attempt. Their strategy always revolves around class warfare, pitting the "haves"" against the "have nots." A uniform mileage tax would hit everyone in their pocketbooks and let the dependent and protected classes feel the pinch of their statist saviors equally.
A mileage tax could incite a peaceable tax revolt and help add to the already lengthy list of reasons to be rid of progressives and statists. The proposal would expose the Federal tyranny for what it is to Americans who never noticed before as few things affect us as universally as when someone messes with our cars.
Imagine the resourcefulness Americans would employ to dodge this tax. Go ahead, try to place some sort of device in every vehicle in America; see how fast they all accidentally get hit with electromagnets, high voltage, or other unfortunate accidents. Watch speedometer cables disconnect themselves, watch the young and typically liberal computer geeks of America turn their attention to the destruction of whatever network the government builds to enforce their tax. Watch auxiliary gas tanks get installed on one vehicle in order to fill others, watch gas cans get filled for lawnmowers every single time a vehicle goes in for a fill. Watch resourceful red state country boys pull the old pickups from behind their outbuildings and drive them unregistered across the great expanses of flyover country. The less resourceful and more effete urbanites on the coasts and in Illinois who insist on forcing this sort of tyranny upon the rest of us would have none of these options and be most affected, forcing them to either pay, or stop voting for big brother. Watch how much more time, money, and effort the program would end up costing the government than it would make. Imagine how much time and money would be spent attempting to deal with scofflaws, and how difficult it would be to prove that each destroyed tracking device wasn't really an accident.
The automobile, the freedom of the open road, and the anonymity of our nation's vast expanse of highways may just be the one thing that most if not all Americans have in common. A mileage tax might finally be an intrusion that might awake enough of us from our stupors to stand up and fight.
To our betters in D.C, please, implement the mileage tax. Continue to expose yourselves for the collectivists and totalitarians you aspire to be. Please give us another reason to demand our states regain their power and protect us from the central tyranny. Please, give us another reason to fight you in court. Please, get the loyalists off the fence, pass the Intolerable Act. You've already awoken the productive, tax-paying, flag waving silent majority, "the sleeping giant" -do this and you'll rally the indecisive villagers to his side and help bring your own house down.
Go ahead, make our day.
J. Kowalski is the pen name of a United States Military officer