November 13, 2005

Der Sauer Kraut

Hatched by Dafydd

You gotta love Charles Krauthammer. He's always so chipper and bright, never sees a dark cloud, almost Disney-esque in his optimism and love for all of humanity.

And generous! He's generous to a fault. I don't know of any other supposedly conservative columnist who would lend his column to Paul Krugman, despite the fact that Krauthammer's syndicated column runs in the Washington Post, while Krugman is syndicated out of the New York Times. True, Friday's column is bylined "Charles Krauthammer," but that's just the kind of stand-up guy he is, letting Krugman take over his column anonymously.

I mean, there is no other way to explain this, is there?

Just yesterday we were paying $3.50 at the pump and ready to pay $4 or $5 if necessary. No blessing has ever come more disguised. Now that we have lived with $3.50 gasoline, $3 seems far less outrageous than, say, a year ago. We have a unique but fleeting opportunity to permanently depress demand by locking in higher gasoline prices. Put a floor at $3. Every penny that the price goes under $3 should be recaptured in a federal gas tax so that Americans pay $3 at the pump no matter how low the world price goes.

Why is this a good idea? It is the simplest way to induce conservation. People will alter their buying habits. It was the higher fuel prices of the 1970s and early '80s that led to more energy-efficient cars and appliances -- which induced such restraint on demand that the world price of oil ultimately fell through the floor. By 1986, oil was $11 a barrel. Then we got profligate and resumed our old habits, and oil is now $60. Surprise.

The worst part is that much of this $60 goes overseas to foreigners who wish us no good: Wahhabi Saudi princes who subsidize terrorists; Hugo Chavez, the mini-Mussolini of the Southern Hemisphere; and (through the fungibility of oil) the nuclear-hungry, death-to-America Iranian mullahs. This is insanity. It makes infinitely more sense to reduce consumption, drive the world price down and let the premium we force ourselves to pay at the pump (which begins the conservation cycle) go to the U.S. Treasury. If the price drops to $2, plow that $1 tax right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes.

This is classic Krugmanish liberal insanity, even if he is confusingly writing under the "Charles Krauthammer" nom de processor (possibly to get out from under that $50 masochism fee that the Times now charges to read Krugman under his own name): only a liberal would propose a massive, regressive, and East-Coast-centric gasoline tax in order to force consumers to change their driving habits. Particularly when even the actual columnist, whoever he is, admits that the market is already taking care of the problem by itselt, without heavy-fisted intervention:

Consumers are not stupid. Within weeks of Katrina, SUV sales were already in decline and hybrids were flying off the lots.

And we're talking a seriously big tax hike here: using the anonymous author's own example, if gasoline dropped to $2 a gallon, then the "Krauthammer" tax would be 50% -- on top of the outrageous tax we already pay on gas (about 40¢ per gallon in Southern California).

  • It's a huge tax increase.

"Krauthammer" (Krugman, I presume, lurking behind the pseudonym) says that the tax should be ploughed "right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes," but he knows this will never happen: the tax increase will simply increase the bloat of the federal government -- and will likely go towards new spending that has nothing to do with energy production. Of course, for liberals (like whoever is masquerading under the name "Charles Krauthammer"), that's a good thing.

  • It's extremely regressive.

Naturally, a tax on a commodity like gasoline falls hardest on the lower middle class: the poor typically don't have jobs, or at least their jobs are nearer to where they live. And the impact of a per-gallon tax on the rich, no matter how huge, is miniscule compared to their annual income.

It's the commuter class, the mob of lower middle class worker-bees, who will be hit hardest; the folks who literally cannot afford to live near their work because the housing costs are too great, so they must commute every day -- often more than a hundred miles round trip (as Sachi does). Sure, they can try to carpool; but in many cases, nobody else lives reasonably nearby. And if you have to carpool with people who live far away and off your route, that just shifts the tax currency from dollars to time: working mothers and fathers who already have too little time with their kids would have even less.

Of course, liberals don't care about the middle class... only about the poor, who can be herded into the streets whenever the ballot box goes south on them, and about the rich, who are liberalism's natural constituency: the Hollywood elite, the Manhattan socialites, the "dot-com-ers," the Clintons. This is another clue that the culprit behind this column is a liberal. I'm guessing Krugman, but it could equally well be Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times or even Maureen Dowd of the New York Times (the latter is unlikely because there is nothing libelous in the column). I'm still putting my money on Krugman, since it's a tax and economy issue.

  • It's aggressively Eastocentric.

Remember those maps of the United States as seen by New Yorkers? Enormously detailed Manhattan, Jersey is sketched in as a small strip surrounding Newark Liberty International, Cape Cod and Miami are islands, and the rest of the country warps around like a fisheye lens into one undifferentiated mass until you get another big bulge for Hollywood.

Well, this gasoline tax proposal suggests just such a distorted view. In the East, states and cities are small and compact, and they typically have workable public transportation that will get you anywhere a person might reasonably want to go. But out in the west, cities can be hundreds of miles apart; and even within a city, your job can be fifty or sixty miles from where you live. Distances are huge in California, Texas, and even smaller states like Arizona... and public transportation is virtually unworkable in a city without well-defined transit corridors, driving is a necessity, not a useless frippery, like a hair weave or eyelash extensions, that can be cut back when money gets tight.

I thought these all might be clues to the real author of this piece; but whoever it is, the real Charles Krauthammer would do well to see a doctor about his swollen generosity gland; left untreated, it can continue to lead him to such eccentric behavior as allowing some nameless, mindless, boneheaded, liberal nitwit to ghost-write Krauthammer's column for him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2005, at the time of 1:50 PM

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The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

Sorry Dafydd.
I think that is the real Krauthammer, the same one that sits on the odious "bioethics" council.

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2005 2:27 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

Amen Dafydd.

The first thing I did when I read this piece was to laugh out loud. I have heard and seen this kind of insanity all of my adult life. This is the Clinton carbon tax writ large. Do these idiots have a clue about the size of the US? Do these idiots have a clue about the usefulness of 'mass' transit in a major disaster? Nope, I don't think so. This is the kind of thinking behind laws that declare pi = 3 or 2+2 = 6. To quote John Stossel, give me a break (and leave me and my money alone).

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2005 2:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

i once thought that when gasoline hit $5 a gallon, Americans would start asking that we use our own oil. $10 a gallon now seems more likely.

Republicans are already caving on drilling offshore, and even on our own land...

Arab nations have been gaining the profits for far too long, like 'Charlie' pointed out. Until Americans start using their own oil, then the price should keep going up. i see no problem with that...

Half of America complains about everything. Tax Cuts. High prices for gas. Hurricane Katrina. Half of America needs to do without electricity for their homes, in my humble opinion. Lets raise taxes until the left begs that taxes stop being raised...begging on their knees, or until they have to park their cars!!!

Importing oil puts America at the mercy of the Middle East, so we need to stop importing, and start using our own oil, if we like gasoline and electricity.

Unless i have missed something here, Charles Krauthammer has made a great point!!! Raise the tax on gasoline until we use our own!!!

Tax Collector

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2005 5:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: beebop

I hope you don't call me another Anita Hill for disagreeing with you, but I think you're all wet on this one. The low income folks could have the money rebated through the earned income credit, middle class through other adjustments, and the rich nabobs like you and your blogger friends could cut back on your Gulfstreams and rave parties.
An honest look at our geopolitical situation would show that we are literally over a barrel right now. I believe in shared sacrifice. If we're going to ask another 2,000 young people to lay down their lives in Iraq, we ought to make some adjustments in our lifestyles to show we are willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

The above hissed in response by: beebop [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2005 6:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

One of the reasons that i like Big Lizzards, is because Management does not allow bashing., i would like to see what Dafydd and other Management here thinks about "Fair Tax".

i like it a lot...have checked it out. Such a Tax System could spare America from joining the 'trash heap' of history...human history especially.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 15, 2005 3:40 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I used to like the idea of the "Fair Tax" (consumption tax), but I've cooled to it for two reasons:

1. Too easy to raise taxes without much notice; the government can just increase the consumption tax, and it will masquerade as inflation.

2. I want Americans to know exactly how much they have been taxed by the feds, the state, and the local governments; with the consumption tax, they haven't a clue.

Nowadays, I prefer a flat income tax; if you must have a consumption tax, it should not be paid conveniently (and invisibly) at point of sale; instead, taxpayers should received a whopping great bill at the end of the year, so they have to endure the pain of writing a huge check.

That way, they won't soon forget... and they'll be much more open to the idea of tax cuts.

Europe mostly uses a consumption tax (they call it VAT, value-added tax, and it's applied every time a product undergoes some processing that increases its value -- as when steel ingots are melted and formed into an automobile engine block). It hasn't stopped European countries from raising their VAT to commerce-killing levels.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2005 12:01 AM

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