Friday, May 30, 2008

Gas taxes buy roads, maintenance and transit!

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Barbara Fischer hits a new low in promoting market extremist ideology over reality with her column defending oil company profits and subsidies today.

She writes the "state and federal government receive more than 50 cents a gallon for doing nothing."

Where does Ms Fischer think the funds for the interstate highway system, the nation's single largest public works project, came from? The oil companies? General Motors?

Between 1956 and 1982 every single federal gas tax dollar was used to build and maintain the interstate highway system.

This $129 billion expenditure directly subsidized the American automobile industry which, as late as the 1970s, was responsible directly or indirectly for one out six private sector jobs in the country and gave rise to the blue collar middle class. It also subsidized the trucking industry which replaced railroads as the main way of transporting manufactured goods, raw materials and agricultural produce after the World War II.

Post war suburbanization, for better or worse, was made possible by the construction of the interstate highway system.

Since 1983 most federal gas tax revenues have been invested in the interstate highway system while a small portion, between 11.1% (1983) and 15.5% (2007) has been used to support mass transit.

In 2006 Wisconsin received over $630 million in federal highway support and $69.6 million for transit from the federal gas tax. For every dollar Wisconsinites pay in federal gas taxes the state receives $1.06.

How does Ms Fischer think that the state of Wisconsin pays for state highways and the maintenance of those highways?

It's the state gas tax stupid!

That state gas tax also funds local transportation aids that help pay for local street and road maintenance, transit ($101 million) and transport for the disabled and elderly ($15.4 million).

That adds up to a whole lot of nothing!


Joe Klein said...

Give the free market proportionates what they want, privatize the the interstate system in Wisconsin. Get it off the tax subsidy, use the gas tax for roads currently paid for by property taxes, put the interstate lands back on the property tax roles.
If driving on the interstates requires a toll, and gas prices continue to climb, then the true value of public transit will quickly become apparent.
Why is public transit "socialism" when the interstate is the most "socialist" institution we have. After all, Ike borrowed the idea of the "I" system from the Nationalist Socialist Party of Germany. The proponents for expanding I-94 are the concrete lobby and big labor. The subsidized interstate reinforces sprawl and encourages us Americans to export our wealth to people who hate us, one barrel at a time.
As for the "environmentalist don't let us drill" argument, these oil reserves are mostly in costly places to drill and the projected supply will just slow, not reverse, the decline in domestic oil production. We can drill for and burn oil until both poles are ice free, unless we can convince the Chinese and Indians to not emulate our wasteful ways, the price of oil will inevitably rise.

Ancient Advocate said...

What both Michael and Joe write is so obvious it makes one wonder. We need to admit the our current love of the automobile is an expensive love; to be able to get in an airconditioned car with a more comfy seat than most chairs at home and surrounded by the marvelous sounds from our radio is an expensive luxury. If we wish to continue to have it so, we'll have to pay for it.

By the way, next time you go to Chicago, ride Amtrak. Avoid the construction and save money in the deal, too.