The Other Republican Tax Increase

Republicans hadn’t even taken control of the U.S. Senate before one of their high-ranking members opened the door to the usual lazy Republican option to fix budget problems: taxing the poor (The Hill).

Sen. Jim Thune (R-S.D.) signaled Sunday that Republicans might be open to negotiating increasing the gas tax in order to pay for the highway infrastructure spending bill that expires in May.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Thune said that while he is opposed to increasing the gas tax, lawmakers will need to “keep all options” available when they return to Washington this week.

“I don’t favor increasing any tax,” Thune said. “But I think we have to look at all options.”

History shows us that when Republicans talk about the need “to look at all options,” they usually (though admittedly not always) pick the one that keeps government large and moves taxes higher.

That said, if Thune is serious about “all options,” he might want to consider some Jake Novak mentioned (CNBC, emphasis in original):

But look a little more closely, and you find that the term “infrastructure spending” in Washington and many state capitals is slapped on to a lot of things that have nothing to do with what should be considered normal transportation.

I’m talking about spending for hiking trails, bus lines in towns with fewer than 50,000 people with no demonstrated need for mass transit, and millions for a museum in honor of the long-defunct Packard luxury car.

With gas prices plummeting for 103 days in a row now, the calls are getting louder to raise the gas tax to help shore up the almost empty Highway Trust Fund. Some of those calls are even coming from anti-tax Republicans like South Dakota Senator John Thune.

Everyone agrees many of America’s vital roads and bridges are in need of improvements and updates. It’s not just about convenience, it’s beginning to be more and more about safety and ensuring we maintain the key role reliable transportation plays in the U.S. economy.

Five states have already raised their gas taxes, using legitimate concerns about their infrastructure and the lower gas prices recently as an excuse. One of those states was North Carolina, which now has the highest state gas tax of any state in the South, despite being one of the poorer states in the US based on household income.

So, before Thune, the Republicans, or anyone on Capitol Hill and the White House signs off on a tax hike that will hit virtually everyone in America, especially the poor…

Define “infrastructure.” Tax-and-spend politicians like to use the word “infrastructure” in speeches a lot because when you say that word, most of us think of those vital roads and bridges. And who could possibly oppose improving our roads and bridges or at least keeping them safe?

But look a little more closely, and you find that the term “infrastructure spending” in Washington and many state capitals is slapped on to a lot of things that have nothing to do with what should be considered normal transportation.

I’m talking about spending for hiking trails, bus lines in towns with fewer than 50,000 people with no demonstrated need for mass transit, and millions for a museum in honor of the long-defunct Packard luxury car.

I’m also talking about bigger concept infrastructure projects that cause massive budget overruns. Ask the people of Seattle about the massive highway tunnel digging machine nicknamed “Big Bertha.” That $80 million behemoth is currently stuck underground and no one knows when it will be able to resume working on a $1.4 billion project. “Bertha,” by the way has already burned through $1 billion of that funding and has completed just 11 percent of the job so far.

Can you say “cost overrun?”

Boston and the entire state of Massachusetts are still reeling financially from the infamous “Big Dig” project that finished more than five-times over budget and nine years behind schedule.

No one in Congress should even think of approving a gas-tax hike without a promise to prioritize all infrastructure spending. Existing roads and bridges with structural and safety problems should all be addressed before anyone even considers spending a penny on a Big Dig, Big Bertha, or little Packard museum.

Note Novak’s comment that a gas-tax hike “will hit virtually everyone in America, especially the poor.”

As I’ve discussed earlier, Republicans have a serious tax-the-poor problem. Big government Republicans (they know who they are) reach for it repeatedly as their financing mechanism. Small government Republicans (we know who we are) have used them to “pay for” other tax cuts, or re-label them to make them seem acceptable (fees, Social Security contributions, etc.). Working-class voters know better.

As with everything else government does, spending must be funded, but it must also be prioritized, and first. Far too many politicians – in both parties – skip the latter for the former. For Democrats, that means taxing the rich; for Republicans, it means taxing the poor…

…which may explain the Republicans’ recent electoral failures, especially in Virginia.

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