Trouble at the Pump

I was trying to ignore Clinton. I really was. I figure, like it or not, this primary is pretty much in the books. And since Clinton is really just delaying the inevitable, why not just forget about her and focus on McCain? But her little “misadventure” at the gas station had me rolling, and I just couldn’t resist. (Besides, this gives me a chance to talk about him, as well.)

Not that she’s been the first democrat who’s had a bad photo op. Remember Kerry’s ridiculous hunting trip? I find it hard to understand why politicians don’t realize that they look much better in situations which look random and unscripted, and an obvious photo op trying to appear like a “commoner” is demeaning and pretentious. Maybe that’s why the Republican’s have the “average Joe” label; Bush looked right at home moving shrub. Like that’s actually what he wanted to do with his day. Okay, he looked like a dunce coming out of that fighter plane. But does it compare with Dukakis in the tank? Not even close (at least he used to be a pilot. And by “used to be” I mean by all accounts he showed up for training class at least two or three times.)

At any rate, Clinton pulls up to the gas station to talk about fighting the cost of gas, in a truck bigger than my house (a Ford F250) followed by six Suburbans, two squad cars, and an SUV (evidently completely unaware of the irony), and let the whole crowd know that while she hasn’t actually pumped gas in quite a while, or even really knew what the price was, she has “heard from a lot of people” that it is starting to get pretty bad.

“Sixty-three dollars,” she said while shaking her head, “for just about a half a tank of gas.” Yes, well, that’s what you get when you’re practically driving a Kenworth.

She also had a mishap with the coffee machine; we have those at our gas station and let me tell you, sometimes pushing that little button can be quite a harrowing experience. If anybody in her campaign has any sense at all, this will be the last we hear of her calling Obama “elitist.”

But Hillary Clinton made the stop so people would start talking about her gas tax holiday, so I’ll bite.

This little gas tax vacation is meaningless. Absolutely meaningless. First of all, neither Clinton nor McCain are going to be President this summer. They’re both sitting there talking about this thing like it’s going to be their Presidential policy, even though they will take the oath of office (or watch Obama do so) four and a half months after the thing ends. Neither of them has the power, or more importantly the time, to shove this thing through Congress, and neither of them are going to attempt to do so. And Clinton really takes the cake, because she wants to offset the cost with an increased tax for oil companies. I’m not against windfall profit taxes for Chevron, but there’s not a chance in the world that gets through Congress this summer. And if it does, is there anybody who actually thinks Bush will sign it? (I actually heard that as a punchline in a Bill Engvall joke. “No, sir, Bush actually signed the tax hike for the oil companies. Here’s your sign!”)

But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, the vacation does pass Congress. What would be the effects? They both want to pass it so people won’t be so burdened by the added expense of gasoline. Well, this tax vacation would take effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which is thirteen weeks. Let’s say I have to fill up my sixteen gallon Taurus once a week (which I don’t. And since I drive from Chicago to Peoria and back every week I put about four hundred miles on the car a week; a sum which I’m guessing is a touch higher than the national average). The federal gas tax is 18.5 cents, so that would save me $38.48. Now, you could give that to me in a lump sum and I would barely even notice it. Spread out over the whole summer and I wouldn’t think you did anything for me at all.

Which it won’t. But it will do something to me.

This money is used to build our highway infrastructure. Road, bridges, tunnels, things like that. And this infrastructure is in severe need of help. So much so, that Popular Mechanics recently ran a cover story on it. And according to the Associated Press, the Highway Trust Fund, which helps build and upkeep the infrastructure and which gets about two thirds of its funding from this tax, is going to be in debt by 2009.

The U.S. Government’s Energy Information Administration predicts that the U.S. will use 9.4 million barrels a day of fuel this summer, which at 42 gallons per barrel equates to 394.8 million gallons of gas. Taxed at 18.5 cents per gallon, this tax holiday would remove over $73 million a day from our road’s infrastructure just when we need it the most. That’s well over $6.5 billion dollars.

So next time you’re driving down the highway ask yourself; is the deterioration of this road, and the decreased safety, increased travel headaches, and additional gas your car will burn as a result of it, worth about forty bucks this summer?

Didn’t think so.

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