America Is Going to Potholes

January 17, 2014 - 4:15 PM

The other day I watched Ray LaHood talk about his interest in seeing the Federal gas tax go up, on Cavuto on the Fox News Channel.

LaHood served in the Obama administration, after serving in the House of Representatives, as a Republican from Illinois.

He repeated his line, "The country is one big pothole!" and went on to describe how swimmingly his service in the Obama Administration went, which made Neil question his assertions - like LaHood's claim that, by September 30, 2014, the so-called Highway Trust Fund will be out of money.

During the interview, a graphic on the screen showed that, on average, State gas taxes are 31.4 cents a gallon, and Federal gas tax is 18.4 cents.  In other interviews, I heard LaHood express a desire to raise the Federal tax an additional ten cents, saying also, that it's been 20 years since the last hike.

LaHood's answer to why the Highway Trust Fund is diminished, as he told Neil, is that people are driving less, are driving more fuel efficient cars, and the gas tax hasn't been raised.

I have no idea how to logically understand the last portion of his comment.  The mere fact that the tax hasn't been raised doesn't deplete the "trust fund," and I think that's why Neil was skeptical. Neil continuously asserted that there has to be someone absconding with the money.  Plus, as he said, that there was a mythical Social Security lockbox a while back, too.

But what a laugh it is to say that we have to raise taxes on gas now because the government forced auto companies to make more fuel efficient cars.

The government also made them more dangerous by making them lighter.  It's like banning cigarettes everywhere and then complaining the tax income from them has fell.

On the one hand, they claim you are saving the planet or your lungs, and on the other, but, we need to replace that money!  The government can't do without; are you nuts?

Gee, maybe people are driving less because they haven't got the money to drive.

Back when we first started out, we were always scraping for cash, but on Sundays we'd go for a drive for something to do.  Gas was 99 cents a gallon, and taking a drive was cheap entertainment.  But now, even though we have done better economically, we make sure we have several errands piled up before going to town, and if we wanted to take a drive, it will set us back $40 or more.  If my household was unemployed, a drive for entertainment's sake would be out of the question.  And what is the current real unemployment?  Something like 15 or 16%?

Gas has gone up from $1.60 per gallon to $3.30 since Obama was elected, and has peaked even higher; the price of food has also gone up sharply, (gee, during the Obama administration, too) and has anyone seen the price of healthcare?

Actually, no, the website's still down.

In fact, in States that also charge a sales tax on gasoline, the higher price of gasoline would increase those coffers, if everyone had confidence in spending and everyone had jobs and if everyone wasn't led around by the nose by a government addicted to control and addicted to your money like heroine.

But Neil came prepared, and rattled off the different ways that the Federal and State governments take your money for roads.

Neil: $85 Billion in fed and state taxes, $12 billion in tolls, $10 billion in property tax assessments, $14.5 billion in ancillary fees, the $62 billion in combined oil taxes...

So much for, "You didn't build that."

But LaHood was quick to point out that local and State taxes go for local and State roads.  Actually, the way it works is a lot different than you'd expect.

I was at a town hall meeting last fall when my State Representative, along with the local Road Commissioner and representatives from the State DOT, offered a presentation on how my State is out of money and what we can do to fix that.

Bar chart after bar chart showed that the Federal government is putting up x amount of dollars, and that the State has to match it, or we don't get the Federal monies.  At least in the State of Michigan, half of the budget for state roads comes from the Federal government.  If we don't come up with an additional $100 million a year, we will lose the Federal aid of an additional $600 million each year.

How this "trust fund" comes in to play, I have no idea.

So, naturally, the State wants to increase taxes because of matching dollar shortfalls, and the Federal government I guess, is what?  Out of money, depleted, spent, too bad, tough luck, I guess.  Pound the hell out of the roads and go back to gravel, I guess.

But locally, it's worse.  The State only contributes a percentage of money for roads, and local townships have to raise taxes locally specifically for roads, to the tune of 80% of the cost of repairing or improving them.

And no matter where you are, road work is not cheap.

So Neil stays on point by asking about the Stimulus, and gosh, that perked LaHood right up.

LaHood: "Yeah, I'm very proud, Neil, that while I was at DOT we spend $48 Billion we put 65,000 people to work, doing 15,000 projects, never heard any bad stories about the money being misspent. America is one big pothole, Neil, if we don't come up with the money, ..."

You've never heard any bad stories about the money being misspent!  A quick Google search turned up this from ProPublica, this from Reason, this from Senator Coburn's office, this from a television station in Dallas, this from North Carolina, this from Philadelphia, this from San Fransisco, this in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan, this from Business Insider, and this from National Review.

At the end of the interview, a frustrated Neil Cavuto seemed convinced that somebody is ripping us off.

Yep.  It's the government.