So now we're going to tax miles driven?
Last week, Pete Buttigieg began confirmation hearings for his appointment as Transportation secretary. During the question-and-answer session, we discovered why President Asterisk favors Mayor Pete for this position. It seems he has a radical new idea for how to fund highway maintenance and development, which the new administration favors. Funding for our highway infrastructure is currently supported via a fuel tax — 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel. Mayor Pete's proposal is to move to a tax on miles driven rather than fuel consumed.
It seems that the administration is concerned that drivers of electric cars are not paying their fair share. Thank God we're past the silliness of the Trump administration. The adults are back in town, and the Harris/Biden administration is tackling the inequity of highway funding head on. I'm sure racism is involved somehow. I haven't figured that angle out yet, but I'm sure that the white privilege of owning an electric car has something to do with it.
Given that electric cars still constitute less than 1% of all vehicles on the road, I have a question for the party of science. Isn't the amount of fuel used to drive from point A to point B still a somewhat useful indicator of the distance from point A to point B? Granted, big cars use more fuel than small cars, but shouldn't small cars pay less anyway? They impose less wear and tear on the roads, after all. Of course, there is the problem that when I'm mowing my yard, I'm helping to pay for the highways. Seems like a national issue that the administration should get right on.
But how will we track the mileage that everyone drives? Maybe the people who brought us election integrity would like us to use the honor system. We can require everyone to log where and when he drives every day. We may need the police to deal with the inevitable scofflaws who will lie on their mileage logs. I'm not sure if those would be funded or unfunded police, but I'm sure they won't mind this addition to their mission.
Another possibility would be to legislatively require every car manufacturer to include mileage recorders — rather like flight recorders for airplanes. Whenever an automobile is driven, its mileage will be recorded and automatically reported to the IRS. What could be easier? Now, which one is the mileage recorder fuse again?
Perhaps we could mandate that all cell phones be manufactured with a mileage tracker app. Putting aside the Orwellian implications of this — would that mean that I pay a mileage tax when I walk from by bedroom to the kitchen? how about when I walk the dog? these minor inconveniences are easily remedied by directing people to turn off their cell phones while walking — just as they'll be doing when they're driving. We won't have a texting while driving epidemic anymore.
Drone technology has reached a level of maturity where it could be used for this initiative. Predator drones are capable of tracking multiple objects, and their optics can even read a license plate from their cruising altitude. During periods of pandemic, the drones could even be used to enforce social distancing and prohibitions against illegal churchgoing. There's no word yet on whether Hellfire missiles will be required.
Granted, there are technical issues to be resolved. But, as the above paragraphs show, these are solvable problems. I'm sure Mayor Pete will be able to resolve any technical hurdles with a panel of experts and ample public funding. I think we can safely say his appointment as the Transportation secretary is a very good thing — for South Bend, Indiana.
The next time I'm out in my pickup truck and come upon a slow-moving hybrid with a Biden/Harris bumper sticker, I'll find great comfort in knowing that its driver is paying as much to use the highway as I am.
John Green is a political refugee from Minnesota, now residing in Star, Idaho. He is a retired engineer with over 40 years of experience in the areas of product development, quality assurance, organizational development, and corporate strategic planning. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Martin Vorel.