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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Hugh Bollinger
/ Categories: Uncategorized

A rant about rats and politicians

By Reilly Capps In times of crisis, why can't leaders recognize reality and do what is obviously necessary? Like: - Why didn't Major League Baseball notice that Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds had noggins the size of beach balls? -  Why didn't Europeans in 1348 notice a correlation between flea-infested rodents and the plague? - Why didn't Easter Island chiefs curtail logging? In 2011, among the things that are blatantly obvious and desperately need doing are: 1. A gasoline tax. 2. An adjustment in social security benefits. The second may never happen, since that would take money from old people, and they vote. But the first just became slightly more politically feasible, now that the head of General Motors, Dan Akerson, has called for a bump in gasoline taxes of as much as $1. He hopes that would push consumers toward more fuel-efficient cars and obviate the need for increases in federal fuel efficiency standards, which would push fuel standards all the way up to 62 mpg. And, of course, as a nice ancillary benefit, a tax would help put out a little less carbon dioxide, which is frying the planet. America has some of the lowest gas taxes in the world and, because gas is cheap, some of the biggest cars, which not only require more gas from petro-dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, but which require taxpayers to build bigger roads and parking lots, and to repair those roads and parking lots more often. To call for higher gas taxes is thus the height of both common sense and basic economics. If something causes problems, you tax it to try to mitigate that. And common sense, of course, matters very little in Washington. After our Nobel Prize winning Secretary of Energy Steven Chu called for a higher tax on gas, congress shamed him into saying that a gas tax was "off the table." This is basically like the captain of a flooding ship who outlaws bailing. But America's business is business, and if the head of GM favors a gas tax, as many other auto execs do, maybe that will give politicians some cover to support it. The Detroit News quotes sources who are skeptical of it ever happening, despite the fact that it makes perfect sense:
Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Global Insight, said higher gas taxes in Europe did lead consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars. But she acknowledged that's virtually impossible to see in the United States. "It's career suicide for a politician to call for raising gas taxes," Lindland said. Akerson isn't the first auto exec to float the idea of a gas tax to encourage consumers to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. has previously advocated a gas tax increase.
If some old people would just support raising the age for Social Security benefits, common sense might reign throughout the land. Yes, yes, I know. Never gonna happen.
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