One Nation On Probation

Here’s a perfect example of unintended consequences.  As vehicle manufacturers have complied with higher gas mileage mandates Federal and state gas tax revenues have fallen.  Federal losses have been exacerbated by the fact that the Feds don’t always use gas tax money for roads and bridges.  I don’t like tax hikes any more than anyone but I don’t want bridges collapsing under me either, so if more highway money is needed let’s discuss how to get it, or more specifically how not to get it.

Some states have shown interest in a tax based on miles driven rather than fuel used.  That’s their business, but when they suggest determining miles driven by equipping cars with GPS tracking devices (as one state is trying) they’re suggesting treating every driver like a criminal.  It’s an unimaginable infringement on privacy and freedom of movement as well a huge expense.  They would not only know how many miles you drove, but where you went, how long you stayed, and how fast you got there, and all that data would be subject to subpoena.  Abuses of the system are obvious.  Once they saw the tax revenue coming in the next step would be to make the GPS system a traffic cop that automatically issued speeding tickets.  If you happened to be near a crime scene you’d automatically be put on a suspect list and might even suffer a wrongful conviction.  Someone with access to the data might use it for stalking another person.  The computer would become the police, and that’s evil that goes beyond Orwellian.  States might mine your location data for profiling or sell your data to companies to mine for targeted advertising.  You could be sure the data would be provided to the NSA as well.

There are two less intrusive options.  The first, simplest, and cheapest option is just to raise the gas tax.  That requires no additional staff to administer a new program.  States that really want to tax miles driven and also require annual safety inspections get mileage reported as part of the inspection, and mileage is reported when a vehicle is bought or sold in every state, so they know miles driven and could base the tax on that information.  Simply charge the tax based on last year’s mileage and let revenue lag by one year.  After the first year it would make little difference.  Where you go is your business, not the states or private companies.

Progressives can’t stop eroding individual privacy in favor of the collective. In this case, say NO.

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