Right-wing media seized on the leak of an undated, "early working draft" of a proposed transportation authorization bill to suggest that President Obama plans to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive and that the government will use it to spy on their driving habits. But the Obama administration has not embraced such a proposal, and, in any event, such an idea is hardly new or controversial, as House Republicans have passed similar bills.
The Hill Reports On Draft Proposal To Study Feasibility Of Mileage Tax
The Hill: "Obama Administration Floats Draft Plan To Tax Cars By The Mile." In a May 5 article headlined, "Obama administration floats draft plan to tax cars by the mile," The Hill reported:
The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.
The plan is a part of the administration's Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly. [The Hill, 5/5/11]
Right-Wing Media Seize On Report To Accuse Obama Of "Big Brother" Tactics
Fox's Ingraham: "Now BHO Wants To Tax Us For Each Mile We Drive? That Is Exactly What Our Economy Needs Right Now." In a post to her Twitter feed, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham wrote: "Now BHO wants to tax us for each mile we drive? That is exactly what our economy needs right now." From her post:
David Limbaugh: "Can You Imagine The Insanity And Insensitivity Of Raising Taxes" On Drivers At This Time? In a May 5 op-ed in The Washington Examiner, David Limbaugh, right-wing pundit and brother of Rush Limbaugh, discussed what he thought of the Obama administration "floating a plan to tax cars by the mile." He wrote:
Making matters worse, the administration and congressional Democrats are considering legislation that would further damage energy businesses by significantly increasing taxes on domestic oil and gas concerns. And just in the past few days, we've been reading that the administration is floating a plan to tax cars by the mile.
Can you imagine the insanity and insensitivity of raising taxes on this ailing industry and its consumers (drivers) at a time when both need all the relief they can get?
Obama is no less determined to cram his preferred energy alternatives down Americans' throats than he was to force feed us socialized medicine. Again, where is the outrage? [The Washington Examiner, 5/5/11]
Huckabee: It's "Ridiculous" To "Tax Cars By-The-Mile." In a post to his Twitter feed, Fox News host Mike Huckabee said the Obama administration's idea to tax cars by the mile is "ridiculous." From his post:
Hoft: "Big Brother Barry Wants To Track Your Every Move." In a May 5 post on Gateway Pundit titled, "Team Obama Floats Plan to Tax Cars By the Mile," conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote: "Big Brother Barry wants to track your every move. Team Obama is floating a plan to tax American drivers by the mile. That would do wonders for the economy." [Gateway Pundit, 5/5/11]
Big Government Post Suggested Pursuit Of Plan Would "Add To Perceptions That The Administration Is Out-Of-Touch" With Average Americans. In a post on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website titled, "Taxing Drivers by the Mile Is a Political Clunker," a contributor with the handle "Capitol Confidential" wrote:
Thursday, The Hill's "Floor Action" blog reported that the Obama administration was "floating" a plan to tax drivers according to the number of miles they drive. Administration officials, including White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, were quick to push back on that characterization saying that the plan was "not an Administration proposal."
However, hours after the news first broke and the White House dismissed the idea that the administration was pushing this, that notion is being disputed and the proposal and its implications are attracting closer scrutiny.
Ironically, however, the plan, if implemented, could easily end up hurting President Obama politically. Setting aside that the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax would constitute a new tax, it would hurt drivers in big Western states like Nevada and Colorado, where people drive more and further, disproportionately. Those are both states on which Obama is reportedly relying to win a second presidential term. It could also seriously impact workers who drive extensively as part of their jobs, for example realtors and tradesmen.
Pursuit of the plan would also likely add to perceptions that the administration is out-of-touch when it comes to basic transportation issues relevant to average Americans. Recently, Obama and congressional Democrats have taken significant heat for high gas prices and what some characterize as a failure to implement policy to bring them down (or express advocacy of policies that critics say could drive them yet higher).
That particular type of government interference of course would contribute to the problem a VMT tax seems designed to solve. [Big Government, 5/6/11]
Doug Powers: "We Already Do Get Taxed Based On How Many Miles We Drive ... But Obviously That's Just Not Enough." In a May 5 post on Michelle Malkin's blog titled, "Obama Administration: Hey, How About Taxing Drivers Based On How Many Miles They Drive?" Doug Powers wrote:
The administration is hard at work searching for ways to reverse any "Bin Laden bumps" in the polls, and at this pace it won't take long:
We already do get taxed based on how many miles we drive -- it's called the per gallon gas tax -- but obviously that's just not enough.
New taxes are now being called "opportunities" in that more people than ever will have the opportunity to be on unemployment.
And who's not up for the creation of yet another new government office to handle this? [MichelleMalkin.com, 5/5/11]
Newsmax: Plan Is A "New Tax Scheme" That "Envisions Using Big Brother-Like Tracking Devices" To Impose Mileage-Based Tax. In a May 5 Newsmax article headlined, "White House Wants to Track and Tax Your Mileage," managing editor David A. Patten wrote:
Conservative economists, commentators, and politicians are blasting a draft Obama administration plan that envisions using Big Brother-like tracking devices on private cars to tax drivers on how many miles they travel.
The new tax scheme, designed to help fund transportation spending, would determine your mileage by installing electronic equipment on your car. This would involve monitoring your location and how far you've traveled. [Newsmax, 5/5/11]
Lou Dobbs Reportedly Stated: "It's Nuts" That "These Idiots Want To Tax Car Mileage." In his May 5 Newsmax article, Patten quoted Fox Business host Lou Dobbs as saying on his radio show: "We've got an effective unemployment rate of nearly 17 percent in this country, and these idiots want to tax car mileage. It's nuts, what they want to do." [Newsmax, 5/5/11]
American Thinker Likened Plan To "Big Brother," "Federal Tyranny." In a May 6 American Thinker article, J. Kowalski wrote:
The Obama Administration has resurrected the notion of a per-mile tax on driving our cars. An attempt of this nature would be a 21st century Intolerable Act. Installing a federal tracking device of any sort on our cars and then using it to tax the miles we drive would probably produce an outrage and backlash unlike anything we've seen yet, and I eagerly welcome the Federal Government to try it. It could truly be "a bridge too far" for the forces of the statists.
Naturally, the bill has only been "floated" in order to gauge reaction and shield the President from inevitable negative backlash to such an endeavor, but the attempt offers further proof of the lengths our government will go to tax and control our lives and habits. Motivation for this idea could range from simply "raising highway revenue" to yet another attempt by our betters in Washington D.C. to shape our behavior to their liking. All are unacceptable.
A mileage tracking device could function in two ways that I as a non-technical layman could envisage though I don't doubt the resourcefulness of Big Brother to come up with many more methods. The first way would be similar to the radio frequency identification technology used by major shipping companies and the United States Military to track and locate trucks and consigned shipments. In brief, a tag on a vehicle or package passes an interrogator, which feeds the information to a network and a central database allowing people to see where a given object is. An active system on a given vehicle could communicate to the network and tally mileage each time a vehicle passed an interrogator.
The second, and more likely, would be some sort of event recorder on each vehicle that would add miles to a balance taxed at the end of the year or added to the bill each time you gassed the vehicle.
Either way, it would represent a massive intrusion into the lives of our citizens. While it seems most of the population is tragically medicated into uncaring stupors by garbage television and the fact that relatively speaking, our lives are still good and lost liberties aren't noticed yet, perhaps the time, cost, and general distastefulness of being forced to add any kind of federally mandated tracking device would wake more people up to the evolving evil of Washington D.C.
A mileage tax could incite a peaceable tax revolt and help add to the already lengthy list of reasons to be rid of progressives and statists. The proposal would expose the Federal tyranny for what it is to Americans who never noticed before as few things affect us as universally as when someone messes with our cars. [American Thinker, 5/6/11]
IBD: "Democrats Want Taxes To Go Even Higher. And They've Just Found A New Way To Impose Them On You." In a May 5 editorial, Investor's Business Daily wrote:
Of all the ideas the White House has floated for taking more of your money, none is more pernicious than the latest: slapping a tax on you for every mile you drive. Isn't that what our gas tax does already?
It's not exactly a novel notion. This is the third time President Obama has pushed the idea of a "vehicle miles tax" -- a tax on every mile you drive. Like a bad meal, it just keeps hitting the table.
The fact is, we already collect a per-mile tax. It's called the gasoline tax, and it's supposed to be used to fund transportation needs.
In reality, Congress spends it on anything it pleases. Over the years, it's wasted hundreds of billions of your gas tax dollars, and now it wants even more.
By the way, this per-mile levy won't replace the gasoline tax. It will only add to its already huge burden.
Not convinced? Recall just a couple weeks back, when people were up in arms after Exxon-Mobil announced record first-quarter profit.
Exxon-Mobil's earnings came out to 7 cents a gallon, up from 2 cents in the fourth quarter.
What about gasoline taxes?
During the same quarter, they totaled 48 cents a gallon -- seven times larger than Exxon's profit, which more than one Democrat termed "obscene."
Now Democrats want taxes to go even higher. And they've just found a new way to impose them on you. [Investor's Business Daily, 5/5/11]
But Proposal Is Not Official And "Does Not Represent Views" Of Obama
White House Spokeswoman: Bill Is Not An "Administration Proposal" And "Does Not Represent The Views Of The President." On May 5 The Hill reported:
The White House, however, said the bill is only an early draft that was not formally circulated within the administration.
"This is not an administration proposal," White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. "This is not a bill supported by the administration. This was an early working draft proposal that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not taken into account the advice of the president's senior advisers, economic team or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the president." [The Hill, 5/5/11]
Draft Is "Merely A Snapshot" Of What Administration Was "Thinking About Including In Their Reauthorization Proposal At One Point In Time." A note on the undated draft obtained by Transportation Weekly and posted by The Hill states:
This is an [sic] copy of a draft bill that was circulated some time ago within the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget. It is not the final version of the bill that the Obama Administration will eventually transmit to Congress (if indeed they ever do submit a bill to Congress). It is merely a snapshot of what the White House and USDOT were thinking about including in their reauthorization proposal at one point in time. [TheHill.com, accessed 5/6/11]
Republican-Controlled House Passed Similar Bills To Implement Mileage-Based Fee Program
Draft Transportation Authorization Proposal Would Require Study And Implementation Of "Mileage-Based User Fee System Or Other System." From Section 2218: Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office of the working draft transportation authorization bill:
(b) PURPOSES.--The purposes of the Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office shall be to--
(1) create a study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems, including those suitable for vehicles using fuel not taxable under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(2) evaluate system design alternatives for such systems;
(3) conduct field trials to demonstrate and test such systems;
(4) increase public awareness regarding the need for an alternative funding source for surface transportation programs and provide information on possible approaches; and
(5) provide recommendations regarding adoption and implementation of a mileage-based user fee system or other system. [TheHill.com, accessed 5/6/11]
In Fact, Republican-Controlled House Passed Similar Bills In 2004 And 2005 To Implement A Mileage-Based Road User Fee Pilot Project. According to the Library of Congress' Thomas database, in 2004 and 2005, the House of Representatives passed bills, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AL), to implement a mileage-based road user fee pilot project. During those years, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress.
- On April 2, 2004, the House passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Young, to "implement a national evaluation pilot project to assess how intelligent transportation system technology can be applied to mileage-based road user charges to collect revenues for the Highway Trust Fund." [H.R. 3550, 4/2/04; H.R. 3550 summary, accessed 5/6/11]
- On March 10, 2005, the House passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Young, "to implement a national evaluation pilot project to assess how intelligent transportation system technology can be applied to mileage-based road user charges" for the purposes of collecting revenues for the Highway Trust Fund. [H.R. 3, 3/10/05; H.R. 3 summary, accessed 5/6/11]
GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach Introduced Bill To Create Incentives Program For Insurance Providers To Sell Automobile Insurance On Per-Mile Basis. In 2006, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) introduced a bill that sought to set up "evaluation projects in no less than 6 metropolitan areas selected by the Secretary to determine how technology can best be applied to assess mileage-based road user charges on major highways at peak-commuting times." The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. [H.R. 4640, 1/3/06, Thomas.loc.gov, accessed 5/6/11]