Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bad Logic, Slanted News

    The lede in the TV news story is, "Lower gas prices are making it harder to repair failing highway bridges."  (Oddly, other reports tell us gas prices are going up!) The story goes on to explain that with Federal gasoline taxes at 21 cents on the gallon, poor old Uncle Sam can't afford to hire repairs.

     That may be true -- but lower gas prices mean people are likely to drive more, and since the tax is per gallon rather than per dollar, the Feds stand to make more. 

     The news story goes on to imply that the Federal gas tax needs to be increased, with various sources calling for increases from smallish to onerous -- but "not as much tax income as the Feds say they need" is not the same as "low gas prices." 

     The end result is a news story sneakily in favor of increasing your gasoline taxes.  Maybe they should go up; the story certainly had plenty of examples of bridges falling apart, and claimed this was due to insufficient funds.  But it was inherently misleading and appallingly ignorant.

     Also, why there aren't more Federal toll roads?  And remind me again why the low-income guy tootling along city streets on a 49cc scooter needs to help pay for my occasional freeway travel?  If we're gonna pay to keep the roads fixed, let's pay to use them, not to burn gasoline and diesel.


RandyGC said...

Similar article here locally, mostly about failing infrastructure but without the gas tax angle.

Problem is, the study they linked with an interactive map to check local bridges did not show at least 3 that had been replaced within the last 5 years. Kind of makes me wonder what other errors their data contains

Anonymous said...


Bu the real issue isn't "not enough money" but rather "improper money management". It takes the State 12 workers to repair potholes, somehow the county does it with TWO.

And the State has chosen NOT to fix and/or repair bridges and roads until it is too late: No maintenance until the rust has already damaged the bridge beams, no pavement preservation until the roads are broken up and the base is damaged. Bad choices all around. They spent the money already on overpriced (union) labor and management salaries and benefits....

Misspending our money is not a good reason to raise taxes. It is a good reason to find other administrators who won't mismanage as badly.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Excuse me, but the Fed's take is fixed regardless of the retail price. That would only change if gas sold for under 21 cents per gallon. I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

IMO Next up is user fees or per-mile fees, because fairness!

User Fees calculated by the free government GPS installed on your car (and your bicycle too!) to measure the mileage accurately. Just coincidentally it will report all your movements to the proper authorities, Citizen X. It's for your safety, and being a good citizen you have nothing to hide. You don't have anything to hide, do you Citizen X? Don't worry, your government will be watching out for you.

Sigman said...

The problem as I understand it isn't that the gas tax needs to increase exactly. Its that so much of it is used to fund non highway "transportation projects" like light rail and mass transit. If they would go back to using gas tax for roads only and find other funding for their pet pork projects, this wouldn't be an issue.

Jay Dee said...

The excise tax on fuels is actually the original progressive tax. If you drive the figurative 49cc scooter, you are paying less per gallon due to higher fuel economy. By the same token, that 18 wheeler on the highway pays much more per mile due to much higher fuel usage. Since the fuel tax is a fixed amount, it is probably in need of an increase.

Other schemes, like Oregon's recently enacted charge per mile, are simply a way to grow the bureaucracy who in turn contribute more to elect pliable politicians rather than generate any additional income for road maintenance.

BatChainPuller said...

Bernie Sanders blamed the Cincinnati over pass collapse on lack of funding and icky Republicans. In actuality it was a caused by a logistics/ planning/execution error during demo by the contractor who was working on the already funded project.

A fuel tax seems to be a rational basis for distributing costs of roads to those who use the roads. Big truck, heavy use, econobox, less use; scooter going to pick up organic eggs delivered by big truck...minimal use.

Stealing fuel tax to build billion dollar little used light rail systems somehow seems less equitable.

Roberta X said...

Well Seasoned Fool wrote: "...the Fed's take is fixed regardless of the retail price." Correct. It's 21 cents a gallon, no matter how much you buy or how much you earn. However, you are incorrect about "gas selling for less than $0.21/gallon -- it can't. The per-gallon tax remains the same, so if wholesale gas is free, you'll still pay 21 cents a gallon for it.

Roberta X said...

Jay Dee writes: "The excise tax on fuels is actually the original progressive tax. If you drive the figurative 49cc scooter, you are paying less per gallon due to higher fuel economy." Incorrect. You always pay 21 cents on the gallon to the Feds. Always. It's a flat tax, a dead-flat tax that gets smaller with inflation. Which is part of why the Feds are grousing -- and it can be argued they did it to themselves.

Hat Trick said...

I think Jay See meant less per mile for the scooter and got bit by autocorrect. Otherwise his example wouldn't make sense.

Jonathan H said...

If the Feds really wanted to raise more money with the gas tax, they wouldn't also be pushing high fuel economy standards; they are shooting themselves in the foot and won't recognize it.
Of course, when did you last see the federal government work to get rid of contradictions?
I agree on the efficient use part - where I live there are road projects that stretch on ad infinitum with no apparent progress and good condition roads are repaved while bad ones sit; there doesn't seem to be a thought out plan as far as what gets worked on when.