For those of you dreaming that Americans might become more statesmanlike in the wake of Barack Obama’s inauguration, here’s a bucket of cold water dumped directly on your heads:
The chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the head of AutoNation are calling for a substantial hike in the gasoline tax, one to finance more road building and the other to jump-start the automakers.
The Chamber chief is at least a tad more noble than his car-selling cohort, in that transportation infrastructure is central to the economy and more of it will create jobs. As for the automakers, at least they want the middle class to subsidize their hybrids, rather than the 12 mpg SUVs they were cranking out as gasoline rose toward $4 a gallon.
Predictably, I suppose, both of these self-serving proposals whiff on the big picture: High gas prices harm the economy, nationally and locally. Drivers spending all their money on gas don’t buy shirts, movies and steak dinners. I can find retailers throughout Wichita who will tell you up front that their current problems began with $4 gasoline.
President Obama’s number one priority is revitalizing the U.S. economy. That won’t happen with $4 gas, whether it comes from oil companies maximizing profits, the new national obsession with greening everything, updating roads (which can and should be done without a gasoline tax increase) or hybrid-touting automakers with a questionable track record.