NYT: Raise the gas tax while gas is cheap
In my experience, as a Brit living in the US, there is no surer way of getting yourself labeled a crazy European communist than advocating for a raise in taxes. Gas taxes, in particular, tend to get people antsy, especially in a country that is so fossil fuel dependent for basic mobility.
Still, people have been saying for a long time that we need a higher gas tax to pay for our crumbling infrastructure, and the recent nose-dive in oil prices might provide the perfect opportunity to phase in a higher tax rate without breaking anyone's bank.
The New York Times editorial board recently took up the mantle for this cause. They cite the fact that poor roads increase fuel consumption and maintenance costs, not to mention put lives at risk. The editorial board also pointed out that there's even some room for bipartisan agreement for once:
Some lawmakers, including some Republicans, are concerned enough about these trends to discuss an increase in fuel taxes. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, has proposed increasing the tax, and Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and a big supporter of the energy industry, has said he is willing to consider it.
Now whether anything will happen or not remains to be seen. I doubt very much that Democrats want to go into 2016 talking about the wonderful low cost of gas and then be faced with accusations of hiking up taxes. Having said that, President Obama recently made it very clear that low gas prices won't last forever, and people ought to be saving up for more efficient vehicles not rushing out and buying Hummers.
Whatever we do, as the NYT also pointed out, a raise in gas taxes should be offset by some form of relief for low and middle income families—as it is these households who pay a disproportionate share of their income in energy costs. But we must find a way to finance our infrastructure, and also send a message to the markets that relying on cheap oil is not a long-term economic strategy. (This will only make sense if a good portion of that tax hike goes to non-car based infrastructure.)