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McCain's Gas Tax Cut Shows Lack of Leadership

Posted by: David Kiley on April 16, 2008


It probably looked good on paper when adviser Charlie Black came up with it. John McCain offered voters an additional “stimulus package” beyond what the Congress approved by suggesting that the Federal gas tax be suspended from Memorial Day to Labor Day to give American drivers extra money.

McCain called for a hiatus for the 18.4 cent-a-gallon federal gas tax. He also said the government should stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which holds upwards of 700 million barrels of oil.

With the average gas tank holding 13 gallons, removing the gas tax would save drivers about $2.35 every time they filled their tank. For most drivers that’s once or twice a week. An extra $4.70 a week.

John McCain has been caught saying that economics is not his best thing. This idea shows why. The federal government collects about $38 billion a year in gas and diesel taxes, with state and local governments bringing in about $78 billion more. Most of the money is used to fund highway projects. Suspending the gas tax during the summer would leave a funding gap of about $10 billion. Where is thata money coming from?

Moreoever, as we enter the peak summer driving season, the Dept. of Energy predicts this will be the first year since 1991 that gasoline consumption declines. There is already a gas glut forming, with the highest stocks of gas we have seen in fifteen years.

Wanna know why? Because gas is more expensive, and people are driving less. Honest policy wonks, journalists, energy analysts and environmental advocates have been saying for years that the only way to curb our enormous thirst for oil is to make gasooline so expensive that people start trading in their guzzling SUVs and pickups for smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. That is happening, now that gas is crowding $4.00 a gallon in many states. $100 to fill a Chevy Suburban is a big wake-up call if you drive it 300 miles a week or more.

Europe’s car park is vastly different from the U.S.’s because they taxed the heck out of petrol. People then naturally demanded smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Few big SUVs are sold.

Now that the public is shifting to smaller, lighter vehicles, which is what even John McCain agrees is a societal goal, he wants to cut the price of gas?

I would call this a piece of political season read meat thrown out to voters, not a sound policy idea.

Reader Comments

paull mcgraw

April 16, 2008 6:25 PM

I don't usually agree with you but this is one time I would agree. Cutting gas prices 18 cents a gallon is like a spit in the ocean when gas is nearly $4 a gallon. It would've been better for Sen. McCain to take the oil speculators that are causing these high oil prices to task. He also should've implored people to conserve energy. Too bad.


April 17, 2008 12:40 PM

Spit in the ocean? Agreed. But taking on the greedy market speculators is impossible. They are web-connected and world-wide. We can't even control those within our own borders.

Speaking of 'greedy' we have Detroit's greedy Failing Three supplying a greedy largely over weight American public, the very same folks (ir)responsible for the use of such a high proportion of natural/national resources of all kinds, drawing on the world's supply in the process. And then there is the pollution issue.

I have to add a comment on the monumental waste of the funds confiscated by all the layers of government. Ever watch a gov't road crew? A civil servant of any stripe for that matter? And then try to can the clown for somewhat less than 'professional' work habits. Ha!

The sad fact is that Americans are wasteful, always have been. It is very difficult to modify ingrained behavior--particularly that of the last few generations who have never known hard times.

John Jay

April 17, 2008 1:30 PM

Ari Fleischer, in a rare moment of Bush Administration acknowledgement that it really does cost some money to operate a government and pave highways, addressed this same issue when gas was about $2.00/gallon. McCain should read Fleischer's comments.

If anything, the gas tax has not kept up with inflation in $/miledriven terms and should be raised.

John Goebel

April 28, 2008 11:24 AM

Who really pays the 18 cent tax? The oil companies collect this money and forward it to the government. There is no reason to think those nice people at Exxon will lower the price by 18 cents. If the tax is eliminated the oil companies keep the extra money.

Douglas Grubbs

May 2, 2008 5:10 PM

I am happy gas prices are going up. Maybe now people will get wise and start going efficient.

I am sick of hearing people complain about gas prices. The average gas mileage of the US is less than half of any other country. If you want to drive a gas guzzler that is your problem not mine. My Saturn gets over 30 mpg on the highway. If you can't afford the gas to drive an SUV don't drive one. And don't come crying to me when everybody keeps buying more gas this summer so the demand keeps going up and prices never come down!

Efficiency - Do more with less!

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