April 17, 2004


Andrew Sullivan doesn’t drive. That’s why he’s prone to impure thoughts:

Gas prices are too low. There. I said it. Even when they peak this summer, as most analysts predict, they will be too low. And they're too low in large part because gas is woefully undertaxed in this countrya state of affairs that is bad for the economy, bad for drivers and bad for our foreign policy. In fact, one of the simplest and best things any Administration could do right now would be to add a buck per gallon to the federal gas tax, which is currently just 18.4˘ ... with soaring deficits and a war to pay for, taxes are not an option — they're a necessity.

My solution: fund the war with a banner tax.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 17, 2004 03:01 PM

Oh, yeah, that'll work, the economic engine of the world just crashed to a screeching halt.

He's no economist. Do that and he can't yap about unemployment. Deficit will go sky-high w/all the people who've lost their jobs now collecting unemployment.

Posted by: Sandy P. at April 17, 2004 at 03:10 PM

This is why people from the NE rarely get elected president. Yes, I know he's originally from the UK, but people in the NE live differently than the rest of the US.

A huge increase in the gas tax would destroy poor people in rural communities. With no mass transportation available, they have to drive, and usually have old cars or trucks.

I would prefer a Latte/Cappacino tax.

Posted by: Jeremy at April 17, 2004 at 03:13 PM

At least he tried to complain about domestic spending. But now it looks like "tax, tax tax, spend, spend, spend", to quote Schwarzenegger complaining about Davis.

My solution: fund the war with a banner tax.

But then it wouldn't be free speech!

Posted by: Andjam at April 17, 2004 at 03:35 PM

>> people in the NE live differently than the rest of the US 10 years, and never felt the need to learn to drive. Now I'll be living in Atlanta for much of the year, and the first thing I notice is that is is absolutely impossible to not drive a car there.

So, at the age of /thirty/, I'll be learning to drive, on the wrong damn side of the road!

I think NYC would have been a better spot for me ;)

Posted by: Gavin at April 17, 2004 at 04:04 PM

Does Andrew realize most goods travel by truck? Does Andrew realize that only a minority of people live where there is bus and cab service? I like his blog, but he seems to be increasingly provincial in his outlook on most things.

Posted by: Dave S. at April 17, 2004 at 04:06 PM

Hum. There is actually some bug in the comments system. That post originally read:

]] people in the NE live differently than the rest of the US [[


I've lived in Melbourne for > 10 years, and never felt the need to learn to drive. Now I'll be living in Atlanta for much of the year, and the first thing I notice is that is is absolutely impossible to not drive a car there.

So, at the age of /thirty/, I'll be learning to drive, on the wrong damn side of the road!

I think NYC would have been a better spot for me ;)

Posted by: Gavin at April 17, 2004 at 04:06 PM

I live in a suburb of Phoenix, and there is no public transportation here to speak of. The temperatures through much of the year make it impossible to walk or bike anywhere. Last summer, I walked a mile to the corner store when it was 118f/48c out. It was the closest I've ever felt to death (and I'm young and healthy).
Even if the entire Paris metro system was dug up, heavily air-conditioned, and brought to Phoenix, you'd still have to walk a few blocks to and from your station.
There's just no alternative here to driving.

Furthermore, as most of the good jobs are in Phoenix proper, and the cheap housing is in the remote suburbs, it's the lower-middle class commuters that would be hit hardest.

Posted by: Sarah at April 17, 2004 at 04:41 PM

sensible idea: cut NEA funding, ag subsidies, the EEOC, and the Departments of Education and Agriculture. Use the savings to fund research into *real*, arbitrarily scalable energy sources: nuclear power, fuel cells, etcetera (not this bullshit windmills stuff)

idiotic idea: increase gas tax by $1, putting millions of people out of work by turning formerly profitable jobs operating at the margins into money losers. (such as all overland shipment, mail, trucking, etc.)

Posted by: gc at April 17, 2004 at 05:23 PM

Increase the gas tax to $5 a gallon, and we non-lawyers can all go back to supporting ourselves by subsistence farming. The lawyers will be busy for years handling the individual and corporate bankruptcies. Horse breeding will again become the wave of the future.

Posted by: Tresho at April 17, 2004 at 06:21 PM

Perhaps Andrew should be pointed towards the Mises web site and other Austrian sites.

Sheeesh - a Con and he spruiks this stuff.

Mind You Bob Carr doesn't drive either so we at least have a balance of sorts.

Posted by: Louis Hissink at April 17, 2004 at 06:38 PM

Don't you just love the term 'undertaxed'? I've always thought weblogs by homosexuals are undertaxed.

Posted by: Mike Hunt at April 17, 2004 at 06:50 PM

Ah, but which NYT columnist is he? Or Tim for that matter?

Hat tip: Random Numbers.

I scored a David Brooks myself - we actually see him every night on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour gig here in Australia. SBS does something useful every now and then.

Posted by: Craig Mc at April 17, 2004 at 06:51 PM

I hold, with Sullivan, that if you give Government more money they won't spend it. Deficits will drop. I also think I breathe too much.

Did Andrew note that the gas tax is supposed to go to the Highway Trust Fund? I'd hate to see anyone rob that one. I also think I breathe too much.

Likewise, Kerry is trying the logic that if we in the U.S. repeal tax cuts for the rich, due to the too large deficit, he will then spend the proceeds on a Nat. Health Care plan, which will have a Trust Fund. We will live happily ever after, I think. I also think I breathe too much.

Posted by: Joe Peden at April 17, 2004 at 07:02 PM

"Mind You Bob Carr doesn't drive either'
haha your kidding. as in no licence or has chauffeur? chaffeur. chauffour. bugger

Posted by: max power at April 17, 2004 at 07:34 PM

Andrew has almost no real-world understanding of economics. He carps from time to time about economic theories, the Euro, federal spending and is almost always wrong.

He is preaching in an area where he has no standing.

For instance:


Posted by: addison at April 17, 2004 at 07:59 PM

Here in Los Angeles many $billions have been sunk into the passenger rail system and it is still only useful for a small portion of the population.

It would probably cost as much to provide a viable rapid transit system for just LA County as the entire war to date, and would takedecades to implement. The demand for reasonably priced petroleum cannot simply be wished away.

Posted by: Eric Pobirs at April 17, 2004 at 08:10 PM

I don't drive either. Perhaps the gas fumes have addled all your brains...
All the suggested taxes work for me - Tax on petrol, banner tax, tax on homosexual bloggers. My own proposal: a tax on everybody who is not me.

Posted by: TimT at April 17, 2004 at 09:45 PM

As a former trucker myself, calls for higher gas taxes never fail to amuse me, made as they usually are by folks who would presumably have a qualm or two about paying thirty bucks a head for their fresh arugula and not near enough space in their rabbit-hutch urban apartments to grow their own.

Posted by: Mike at April 17, 2004 at 10:52 PM

I would tax all foreigners living abroad.

Posted by: Andrew at April 17, 2004 at 11:01 PM

Sullivan is such a fucking hypocrite. He doesn't drive and he lives in a metropolis, so of course, go ahead and tax gas. And if, as he notes, it's a regressive tax that hurts low to middle class rural dwellers well...FUCK EM. They're only serfs anyway. I'm sure Sully doesn't eat any of the domestic products trucked in from the Midwest. French foie gras is so much better for him anyway.

Posted by: JohnO at April 18, 2004 at 12:27 AM

I think Sully waxes nostalgic for those bygone days of paddleboats and trains powered by chopped wood. Maybe he's been watching too many Turner Classic Movies again.

Posted by: ushie at April 18, 2004 at 12:43 AM

Andrew's first draft:

Jump the Pump Tax, It's a Gas Gas Gas


Tim - may see you in Oz later this year...

Posted by: iowahawk at April 18, 2004 at 12:46 AM

Uh, I can't say that gas prices should be taxed more, but regulated less. Yes, compared to other countries, they are low, but shouldn't they be? Anyway, the point I want to make is that environmental restrictions and refinery capacity not keeping up with consumption are the factors which are driving prices up. supply of crude is keeping up with demand, but refining capacity isn't.
Can anyone come up with a figure on how refining capacity is increacing to match demand? Why are environmental standards not adjusted to take into consideration that today's gas burns cleaner that 10 years ago? Gas is cleaner, but how much cleaner can you make it and and still make it affordable? Economy of scale anyone?

Posted by: Homer at April 18, 2004 at 03:21 AM

Gas taxes should go toward roadway maintainance and enhancement. Lord knows we need them.

Anybody willing to spend 3 bucks on an 8 ounce cup of fancy coffee shouldn't find it too hard to spend as much on a gallon of gas.

Big trucks hauling goods generally run on kerosene or diesel fuel, not gasoline. It is priced differently, comes out of a separate pump, no problems taxing it differently.

For funding a war, let's do it the old fashioned way. War Bonds.

Posted by: Timothy Lang at April 18, 2004 at 03:58 AM

So ol' Andy supports the war so much he wants someone else to pay for it. He, Sullivan, sometimes acts like a typical lefty -- show how concerned you are about a problem by demanding that someone else's money be spent on the problem.

Posted by: David Crawford at April 18, 2004 at 04:02 AM

Sullivan is a city boy. Like most city folk they drive mostly out of convenience, since any really poor city person can tell you that you can make it without a vehicle (been there, done that) but it's a pain.

Any country folk can tell you that no vehicle means no life. When it's sixty miles to the nearest store, doctor, movie theatre, etc... and sixty miles each way to work; you realize that not having a vehicle, and not having cheap gas is more than simply inconvenient.

Perhaps the answer are high gas taxes in cities and lower ones in the more rural areas, since, after all, pollution seems to be more the domain of the city than the country.


Posted by: Kalroy at April 18, 2004 at 10:54 AM

I don't have a car. I get up at 4:30am to get to my job which starts at 8am. I have to spend two hours on a bus just to do any damn thing that isn't walking distance from my house, which is just about everything in car-intensive Orlando. Sullivan shows the typical provincialism* of a foreigner who came from a tiny country well-served by public transportation to New York City, the denizens of which are notorious for their ignorance of the way the rest of the country works. With the exception of New York and a few other areas, most of them in the Northeast, the US is a huge, spread-out country where the most efficient way of transportation is by private car or airplane. That's just the way it worked out, we can't be like Europe, with trains and trams everywhere. We're just too big. I wonder if Sullivan has even been to any other state in the union.

*Yes, I know someone already said that, but I wanted to say it.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 18, 2004 at 01:48 PM

Probably not, Andrea. A lot of people believe that their world is everyone's world. Curing them of that fallacy requires multiple kicks in the butt. With occasional reinforcement afterwards. I've done my share of commuting on public transportation, or driving long distances, just to earn my paycheck. It is not fun.

This world runs on oil and convenient transporation, let no one say otherwise. Our economic system demands it. Shut down the airlines (such as what happened in the aftermath of 9/11), and you start an economic crunch.

The only way this will change if and only if someone invents a cheap and reliable alternative to internal combustion engines.

Deliberately raising gas prices is the economical equivalent of sticking a pistol in your mouth and pulling the trigger. A bureaucratic solution to reducing petroleum consumption? I don't think so!

Characters like Andrew Sullivan are only displaying their vast ignorance.

Posted by: JeffS at April 18, 2004 at 02:44 PM

Why don't we just tax weblogs written by self-described gay conservatives instead? I mean, I don't have one myself, but I'm willing to accept the "general sacrifice" it would entail.

Posted by: Sage at April 19, 2004 at 12:04 AM