10.01.2008 0

Torquemada Taxers Waiting in the Wings

  • On: 10/19/2008 22:50:07
  • In: Energy Crisis, Global Warming Fraud, and the Environment

  • Hit hard by $4.00 per gallon gas prices, Americans are, predictably, driving less. Overall, that may be salutary—though in many cases, it represents a hardship for working Americans to sacrifice necessities in order to keep their family budget balanced (a thought that never seems to occur to those in Washington responsible for the $4.00 per gallon gas prices).

    One result of Americans driving less is that they are using fewer gallons of gasoline. Now, normally, this would prompt those who have been beating the drums for lower fuel consumption – i.e., the politicians — to laud the conservationists and, perhaps, even reward them for their efforts. But, “normal” not being a term even remotely applicable to politicians, they have instead decided to punish the American people – by making them pay more for driving less.

    Enter the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL). Meeting in New Orleans last week, this august group of aspiring Torquemadas “collectively told Congress” (as their Pecksniffian news release puts it) to raise federal gasoline taxes on the American people in order to “focus on transportation priorities.”

    The truth is, there are other ways to “focus on transportation priorities” rather than further torturing the American people by exacerbating their already severe gas tax pains. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recently had some suggestions that, perhaps, never occurred to the state legislators, addicted as they are to throwing money at every problem, rather than seeking to find a core solution.

    Mr. Flake, on July 17, introduced a bill titled “Resisting Offsetting with Additional Debt Act” (H.R. 6534) recommending that instead of raising taxes on the American people, Congress should cut waste from the transportation budget and appropriate the money only for genuine priorities. For example, instead of instructing Minnesota to spend nearly $1.6 million of its federal transportation grants for bike trails and $1 million for new visitor centers, Congress should allow the state to use the funds to upgrade its bridges. And that’s just the beginning.

    As Mr. Flake observed in introducing H.R. 6534, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending on infrastructure will approach $80 billion this year. The problem is not that we are spending too little, but rather that Congress puts strings on state transportation funds. Simply look at the 6,300 earmarks, worth more than $24 billion dollars, stuffed into the 2005 transportation bill. These particular earmarks are more troublesome than the usual raft of wasteful pork spending – and not just because of their sheer number.”

    Among the “raft of wasteful pork spending” imposed by Congress on the transportation budget:

    • $300,000 earmark to renovate Pennsylvania’s Bhul Farm
    • $90,000 earmark to design a new map for West Virginia’s Washington Heritage Trail
    • $5,000,000 earmark for California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area
    • $2,300,000,000 earmark for landscaping along the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Simi Valley
    • $200,000 for Guam’s Sidewalks, Street Furniture, and Façade Improvements,
    • $150,000 earmark for Chicago’s Muntu Dance Theater
    • $813,900,000 in 1097 separate earmarks for purchasing or replacing buses in select congressional districts nationwide

    The list of absurd – even insulting – congressional earmarks goes on forever [http://www.heritage.org/Research/budget/upload/wm1660_table1.pdf]. And the point is abundantly clear: before the politicians in Congress even consider accepting the “collective” demands of their state legislative counterparts to raise the gas tax on working Americans, they ought to first cut the waste from the federal transportation budget.

    What are the chances of that? So, far, Mr. Flake’s bill to refocus transportation spending priorities has zero – as in nada, zip, zilch – congressional co-sponsors. And, frankly, if the Pecksniffian members in the NCSL are any indication, don’t look for any relief from the Torquemadas waiting in the wings.

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