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Pay now or pay later, with interest?

Add NJ Gov. Jon Corzine to the politicians shifting gears to support a federal gas tax holiday this summer. Personally, I like bridges that don't collapse, roads that don't have pot-holes that eat my tires and driving at the speed limit because I'm on a fairly smooth, safe road, but I guess that's not important when there is pandering to voters that needs to be done. Let's add to our debt and cause more money to be paid by future generations to banks etc for servicing our debts in lieu of actually dedicating our tax dollars to services because we refuse to pay as we go. 

Since 1956, most of the proceeds of the federal gas tax have been used solely for roads (and since 1982, 20% of that for mass transit). While some hope to make up this lost tax revenue by taxing the oil companies for their windfall profits (which they'll probably just pass onto the consumer), it is doubtful that will really help consumers. What really needs to be done is for us to kick our oilhabit instead of looking for more gimmicks.

This tax holiday proposal is just another version of  these idiotic economic policies that are essentially "party now, leave the bill for the next generation." While I know running a debt is sometimes necessary, we really need to be concentrating on spending less. As to paying more and more for gas, well sorry folks, we're paying for our stupid energy choices of the last few decades. We all knew this day would be coming and chose to ignore it. We could've been planning ahead, demanding alternate fuels and more fuel efficient cars and homes, but no; we had to have the latest SUV and fuel wasting McMansion. We've spent too much partying and living off of previous generations' sweat equity in lieu of maintaining and expanding our infrastructures. With roads and bridges, essential to moving freight etc across the land, built over the last century showing their ages, reducing spending on maintaining these roads should not be a viable option for our economy. Instead of nation building overseas, we should be nation building here. If we continue down this foolish road, like the grasshopper who partied while the ants worked, we may find that it is finally the time where we are forced to suffer the consequences. 

As a Generation Xer, I've grown accustomed to the idea that my generation (and my children's) will be left to clean up the mess the baby boomers made to our economy. I do it find it interesting that it is the baby boomer politicians (Clinton, McCain) who support this gimmick while the Generation X politician (Obama) sees the tax holiday for what it is. However, it seems its par for the course for the baby boomers to want want others to pay for their partying while they continue to take other peoples' money. Witness the AARP wanting to make sure older NJ residents, who spent and left the bill for the next generation, don't lose their annual property tax rebate checks while the next generation struggles to make ends meet (how the greatest generation raised the greediest generation is another blog entry entirely).

However, this isn't about generational warfare, it is what is best for us as a nation. It is time for us to stop leaving the mess for tomorrow. Like a druggie, our oil habit is causing us to do things that will ultimately harm ourselves and our families. We need to stop leaving it to future generations to pay our bills, with interest, and suck it up and do what we need to do. 

Short term, it's going to be harsh, but long term we'll be ok. Part of that will be maintaining the federal tax. With China's and India's economies expanding, it is easy to see demand will remain high. Drilling in Alaska and off the coast may help in the short term, but we're just going to delay the inevitable. Even so, it will be sometime until those new fields get built (assuming the oil companies don't look at the windfall tax and go "why bother?"). Until then, we need the roads to be maintained (and mass transit to be funded as driving gets more expensive). That costs money which the federal fuel tax is.

In any event, assuming high fuel prices are here to stay, our economy will adjust. In the long term, as we replace our vehicles, we will begin choosing more fuelefficient cars. As we move, we will find places closer to work or mass transit. Alternate energy companies will flourish. And, somewhere, somebody will figure out a way to make alternate energy sources happen. The sooner we move to that day, especially while there is still enough oil in the world that is reasonably affordable to fuel our vehicles and buildings and keep our machines running, and kick our oil habit, the stronger we will be. We need a long term solution to our energy problems, not a feel good, do nothing aproach.


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