Owners of electric cars see themselves as virtuous — and in some cases, seriously righteous — for leaving a smaller “carbon footprint” than their latter-day Neanderthal neighbors who drive those repulsive, “fossil fuel” powered vehicles. At least that’s how the advertisements for these green cars portray the state of affairs in Obama’s America, circa 2015.
But now the levelers of liberalism are riding close on the taillights of their fellow progressives.
Electric vehicle owners, it seems, have been engaging in some decidedly un-democratic behavior, as they have not been paying their “fair share” of car-related taxes to the state.
Owners of gas-powered cars — you and me — pay local, state, and federal gas taxes at the pump, every time they refuel.
Electric vehicle owners have never done this.
So to ensure social justice, the state government in Oregon is piloting a new program — installing a global positioning system (GPS) under the steering wheel of every electric car, and tracking the amount of miles driven daily by the owners.
The Oregon tax is voluntary, for now. The state is recruiting 5,000 — decidedly gullible — electric car owners for the pilot program.
Normal, traditionalist Americans would bristle at the idea of the government tracking their every movement. That’s like being forced to wear an ankle monitor on one’s leg, when under house arrest.
But the guilty liberals — otherwise obsessed with civil liberties, and fearful of the NSA or CIA reading every email message they generate — are all on-board.
“I’ve been free-loading on the highways for 20 years driving electric cars. So I haven’t been paying my fair share,” said Oregon resident David Hastings, in an interview with network television.
But this per-mile-driven levy is a seriously bad policy idea, even if it afflicts only progressives for now.
The government monitoring required to manage this tax is clearly invasive of every driver’s privacy. The GPS will not only track miles driven, but will obviously be able to discern where the drivers have traveled.
What will the government do with that data? Promises of privacy are not persuasive. Look at the leeway the courts have given federal agencies that have tracked the “metadata” of cell phone users. Forget about the protections of the Fourth Amendment or the Fifth Amendment.
There is a better way, in terms of public policy solutions, for electric car owners to pay for the services provided by the states. That would be a toll on selected roads to pay for their construction. Everyone who drives pays the same tax, whether they drive an electric car or a conventional auto.
But other, bigger reforms should be implemented before this kind of service taxation is enacted. The federal highway tax should be abolished. The rationale for the tax, back in the day, Eisenhower’s America, circa the 1950s, was to pay for the interstate highway system. That’s long been completed and paid for. The federal highway trust fund, where the federal gas tax is supposedly sent, is seriously depleted, about as broke as the Social Security trust fund.
For years, the feds have bullied states by stating that they would not be given monies to upgrade roads if they did not comply with this or that Department of Transportation diktat.
Once the federal government is out of the gas tax business, and Congress abolishes the federal gas tax, the states can take over the highway trust fund duties, repairs, and tax users with fees to drive expressways.
Competition among the states will keep the taxes low, as state governors will seek to have lower taxes than their neighboring governors to attract businesses and their employees who drive to work daily, as has happened already in some Midwestern states.
To be sure, it is indeed quite humorous that one of the “benefits” of owning electric cars, as touted by Tesla and other manufacturers, for years now, is that the vehicles have a lower total cost of ownership, because they were exempt from the gas tax. Apparently the progressives working at Oregon’s OReGO energy tax authority didn’t get that memo.
To escape energy taxes, liberals are going to have to go back to their Jack Keroac-inspired ways of old, and hitch a ride, and prove their Dharma Bum bona fides. Opined Keroac, back in the day: “Pain or love or danger makes you real again.” So does paying taxes on your electric car.