Fly on the Wall Alert: Obama, LaHood, and Tom Friedman Tee Off

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman published an impassioned plea for American policy-makers to reconsider their knee-jerk opposition to raising the federal gas tax or debating a carbon tax to set a more appropriate price for energy use. Friedman writes:

obamagolf.jpgThe president on the links. (Photo: Gawker)

According
to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel
fuel would raise about $140 billion a year. If I had that money, I’d
devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the
debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion
the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive
long distances.

As it happens, Friedman had the perfect opportunity to talk about his views during a long day of golfing with President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Nation wondered why the White House has focused its media courtship more on "traditional newspapers" rather than the bloggers who helped power Obama’s election victory, while Politico’s Michael Calderone declared that Friedman’s audience with Obama had vaulted him "to the front of the access line."

But if Friedman’s tee time with the president — said to be a fan of the columnist’s latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded — is truly a mark of increased influence, one supposes it’s only a matter of time before Obama and LaHood reverse their strong opposition to a gas tax hike to pay for long-term infrastructure investment.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall…

  • Kenney

    It would be nice if Friedman could convince the Obama Administration to support an increase in the gas tax, but unfortunately Friedman has no plans to use that increase for infrastructure:

    “If I had that money, I’d devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.”

    Clearly, he either hasn’t heard of the Highway Trust Fund, or he has, but plans to abolish it in order to use gas tax receipts to pay down the debt, pay for health care, and provide subsidies to enable people who “need” to drive long distances.

    I sincerely hope the President doesn’t actually like Friedman’s work, because I’ve read most of it, and he consistently makes arguments and suggestions that are so simplistic that they misinform the reader. His suggestion above, however tongue-in-cheek it may have been (and I’m just hoping it was tongue-in-cheek…he may have been serious!), was irresponsible because he has lots of influence through his readership, and people might start demanding that gas tax receipts be used for non-transportation purposes.

  • Marc Ebuna

    From my understanding of the president’s tee time, he makes it policy to not talk about politics or policy on the green. I thought I heard it from the horse’s mouth on a video feature on whitehouse.gov but on second look, I wasn’t able to find anything…so it may well have been through an ABC News podcast a while back. If anything they may have talked about sports, but definitely not transportation policy, at least while on the green…

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Would Real Men Tax Gas? A Test for Tom Friedman

|
On Monday, Elana Schor highlighted a recent column from occasionally right New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who once again rolled out one of his favorite policy prescriptions — an increased gas tax. Friedman wrote: Tom Friedman (Photo: IvyGate) According to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel fuel would […]

Concrete Proposals for Raising Gas Tax Finally on the Table

|
After a lot of vague talk about transportation revenues since the passage of MAP-21 — “everything is on the table” and “we need to think outside the box” — real proposals are finally being presented. A few months ago, House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster told me, “The surest way to kill something is to […]

LaHood Reaches Out to Transit Industry, Lamenting ‘Lousy Economy’

|
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sought to commiserate with the cash-strapped transit industry today, declaring the Obama administration an ally of local rail and bus agencies even as the "lousy economy" clouds prospects for passage of a new long-term federal transportation bill. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (Photo: Getty Images) In an address to the American Public […]

Senators Hammer LaHood for Specifics on Funding His Transpo Plan

|
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood played defense – and dodgeball – this morning as members of the Senate Budget Committee grilled him on how he proposed to pay for the administration’s new transportation agenda. Secretary Ray LaHood indicates how many details he’s going to give Congress on how to fund the transportation budget proposal (Photo: AP) […]

Today’s Headlines

|
How Will Energy Czar Browner Use Her Growing Clout? (Politico) Tom Friedman Asks: Where’s America’s Moonshot to Achieve Energy Independence? (NYT) GOP Takeover Could Threaten High-Speed Rail Plans (Transport Politic) LA and Beijing Partner to Seek Traffic Solutions (AP) Polls Show Why Brown, Crist’s Constituents Should Embrace Climate Action (Clean Technica) Why Is the Public […]