Editor's note: The following column first appeared in The Washington Times.
Watch out — as the new year approaches the powers-that-be always unleash a new hoard of laws, rules and regulations. Already, we're seeing another Orwellian idea re-emerge from its musty cave: The notion that drivers should pay an additional tax (they'll call it a fee) based on how many miles you drive.
Causing a stir as far back as in 2001 when Oregon noticed that more fuel-efficient cars would impact gas tax revenue, politicians began to scramble to figure out how to use your driving as an excuse to take whatever money you have left in your wallet.
At least 18 states are now considering bills to do just this, and Oregon has initiated a pilot program. CBS News reports, "The Oregon pilot programs seeks to demonstrate whether a per-mile tax is a practical possibility. The state is finding 5,000 volunteers to pay 1.5-cents-per-mile tax instead of the 30 cents-per-gallon gas tax. Devices will report their mileage to the state.
Other states are trying smaller pilot projects, including Nevada, Washington, Minnesota and California. The U.S. Senate passed a bill calling for a $90 million pilot project involving 10,000 cars. But the House leadership killed the bill after complaints from rural lawmakers that such a tax would unfairly penalize their constituents, who tend to drive farther than city drivers."
It's not just fairness that is at issue, it's also about privacy. I contend this is a double-whammy by the government, which always wants to control two things: your money and your life.
As local, state and the federal government get bigger and, consequently, more incompetent, they see the average citizen as more of a threat. There are two ways to control that threat: eliminate disposable income, which funds your personal freedom, including political activities. The other is to condition you into accepting a complete elimination of your personal privacy and allowing the government to know when and where you go at all times.
Consider this: The programs being suggested or tested to track your mileage involve installing a GPS tracking device to determine not just how far you go, but which roads you use, how fast you go, and whether or not you're a "good" driver, i.e., how fast you come up to stops.
The notion of GPS tracking of drivers should disturb everyone and should be rejected as an unacceptable, even Kafkaesque, attempt of government to establish a fascist system of surveillance and control.
The whining of politicians that they're running out of highway repair funds is also rather ridiculous considering the money spent on that very issue through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the Crap Sandwich. Tens of billions of dollars were allocated for projects such as road and bridge repair, yet we're now being told that, well, we need road and bridge repair.
In addition to Oregon, California is considering a mileage "fee" plan as well. Here again, as The Los Angeles Times reports, "Millions of vehicles also would have to be equipped with odometer readers, smartphone applications or global positioning technology that would transmit data to state officials or a contractor, who would then bill owners for the miles traveled. Privacy advocates are especially concerned that — in this era of data mining and well-publicized credit card breaches — the technology could be used to learn not only how far people go, but when and where."
You think? One of the more silly claims is a mileage fee would replace the gas tax. Jonathan Gruber must have assured someone that we're stupid. We all know, once a tax is implemented, it is never removed.
It also seems, once politicians get their hands on our money, there is no restriction or common sense used on how to spend it. Before we hike taxes and use mandatory, constant monitoring of the individual to apply that tax, how about eliminating the wasteful spending of politicians?
The Government Accountability Office has just released a report stating that eliminating unnecessary duplication within various departments could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Information Week reminds us of Sen. Tom Coburn's "Wastebook 2014": "Some examples of wasteful spending in Coburn's report include more than $8,000 that the DOD spent on helicopter parts, which actually cost less than $500; Department of Justice's (DOJ) Criminal Division paying $544,338 for a premium LinkedIn account; and the National Science Foundation's (NSF) $202,000 investment to study why Wikipedia is sexist."
In a story titled, "The outrage of wasteful government spending," Newsday reports Medicare is considered "a "high risk program" because an estimated $44 billion of its 2012 payouts were improper."
These are just a few examples, but are an important reminder of the sea of government corruption and incompetence in which we are all drowning. Now these very same people spend a great deal of their time figuring out how to take more of our money and freedom.
The new year of 2015 could be one in which the citizen could accomplish a great deal. At the top of our "to do" list should be a reminder to make sure our state and federal representatives know tracking and taxing us like a government-owned beast of burden is unequivocally unacceptable.