Friday, March 13 2009 @ 01:39 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
Is bailing out auto manufacturers really such a new and radical idea? Or should we perhaps consider carmakers wards of the state already?
Many people believe that gas taxes and other auto-generated revenue pick up the bills for roads and other auto-related expenses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some researchers conclude that if gas taxes really paid for what many people think they pay for, pump prices would probably be somewhere around $25 per gallon.
If you paid that much for gas, you would probably eliminate a lot of trips you make now. Wouldn’t you realize they aren’t cost effective? For example, you would probably refuse to pay so much to drive a couple of miles just to get a bag or two of groceries, wouldn't you? Wouldn’t everyone do things in better, easier, cheaper ways? How would this change the way our cities look and feel?
Driving really does cost that much. Driving is not cost effective. You pay those expenses through taxes and other means and only because you don’t know you’re paying them and have to pay them to keep from going to jail. If you did know and had a choice, you’d probably stop. You’re not that stupid, are you? You'd probably see it’s not worth it, wouldn't you? Is that why the costs are hidden so well?
So how much do autos cost? What are the real figures? Does anyone know for sure?
We can figure out impossible numbers like how many molecules exist in the universe, how many stars in Andromeda Galaxy, and other enormous numbers, but we can’t seem to get a handle on auto expenses. Many researchers, including me, have tried. A whole government agency was set up just to get that number. Everyone comes up with different totals. Even the same person comes up with different numbers on different attempts. Many argue that their figures are right, but in reality everyone has points to be taken into consideration. Transportation is so divorced from reality, so alien from sound economic and accounting principles, that getting exact figures remains nearly impossible.
Here are just a few of the complex, controversial problems.
Gas taxes don’t fully pay road building and maintenance expenses. Most road money comes out of general funds. That’s easy. We can find most of that money.
But what about other government activities and agencies? Gas taxes don’t fund them, but autos obviously inflict some or all of their costs. Most police agencies don’t get much from gas taxes if anything at all. Yet don’t most of them regulate traffic, search for stolen cars, and so on? About half of fire department calls are to cars, not houses or businesses. That’s auto expense, isn’t it?
And look at bigger agencies. EPA deals with pollution. Cars cause significant pollution. What portion of EPA budget should be considered auto expense?