House Celebrates Norman Mineta, Ignores His Ideas

mineta

Congratulations are in order for former DOT chief Norman Mineta. The House of Representatives just voted, 384 to 0, to honor his accomplishments.

Unfortunately, they still can’t muster the votes to follow his urgent recommendations: that the country ramp up our investments in infrastructure, that we switch from a gas tax to a VMT fee, that we think of projects in terms of long-term economic benefit and not just short-term job creation.

We’re impressed, too, by Mineta’s history, from an incarcerated Japanese-American during World War Two to serving as the first Asian-American Cabinet secretary for a U.S. president (first as Commerce Secretary under Clinton, then Transportation Secretary under George W. Bush.) And now he’s an advocate for big changes he says are necessary to keep this country competitive. Where’s the unanimous House vote to support that?

  • Fred Fnord

    Infrastructure? Great. VMT fee? Dumbest idea I’ve heard in ages.

    Gas tax isn’t paid by electric cars? Which encourages people to get electric cars? Great! Electric cars are GOOD.

    Less gas tax is paid by people with higher efficiency vehicles? Which encourages people to get higher efficiency vehicles? Great! Higher efficiency vehicles are GOOD.

    Gas tax doesn’t require us to fit everyone’s car with a GPS unit so we can see where they are at all times, track people without a warrant, and even have private companies sell location data? Oh darn.

    If the gas tax isn’t bringing in enough money, double the fucker.

  • ZA

    @Fred Fnord –

    There’s more at stake than BAD or GOOD, the question is what is BETTER or BEST?

    I’ll tell you what’s better than a 100 mile-per-charge electric car that joins congested highways and avoids a gas tax that hits the poor harder than the rich…

    An ancient fuel-gluttonous Chevy Suburban that stays parked most of the time since its owners don’t *need* to use it, thanks to good/safe/affordable alternatives, but can exercise the car option when they do.

    Data privacy is a fair concern, but IDs can be anonymized, and individual rights protected. FasTrak rolled out for Bay Area bridges with no personal data abuses that I know of.

    Ultimately VMT pricing can be more equitable and effective than anything else tried so far.

  • Ryan

    I believe in a VMT but I think it shouldn’t use gps, rather an odometer reading perhaps at the time of Smog and paid with registration fees. I think it would probably work better as a state tax than a federal tax.

  • The bulk of people affected by car pollution are low-income. Lacking other options, they live near freeways and feeder routes, breathe toxic air, and get poor care for the asthma, autism, and lung cancer they get for it. Another group of people negatively affected by car pollution is residents of low-lying coastal regions around the world, typically farmers subsisting on a dollar a day. There’s nothing equitable or progressive about a tax that doesn’t try to ameliorate the damage cars do to such people.

  • Cars do damage to the road in proportion to their weight to the fourth power. A gas tax captures a little of this because heavier cars tend to use more gas. Any VMT should be proportional to the weight of the car or it is extremely unfair, but so far I’ve seen no proposals to take car weight into account.

    Gas taxes are simpler to implement, simpler to collect, and much more difficult to cheat on than VMTs. All three points mean administrative costs won’t eat up a hefty part of the revenue which I fear will be the case with a VMT.

    Gas taxes also directly discourage gasoline use and encourage the most efficient use possible of gasoline, which reduces air pollution, climate change, and our trade deficit. (A VMT doesn’t discourage jetskis, snowmobiles, motor boats, gas lawnmowers, etc.) We should increase the gas tax by a penny every month for the next five years. A predictable, expected rate of increase in the cost of gasoline would encourage higher mpg cars, walkable communities, and investments in public transit and bicycle infrastructure. When the gas price jumps around like a yo-yo, people just assume it will eventually go back down and continue business as usual in their consumption.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about electric cars until they make up more than 5% of the cars on the road, a day that is a long ways off. We are likely to hit peak oil, gas rationing, and a hefty jump in electricity rates all before then.

  • tommy

    It’s crazy people still think that electric cars are some great thing.

    Cars require massive portions of all cities’ land be dedicated to them. They add huge costs to building construction when you’ve got to include parking. They make housing less affordable since almost all housing in the U.S. includes parking. They isolate people from interacting with people who are different from themselves. They kill thousands and thousands of people when they hit them. They make kids a little less fit and less social when they give them rides to school and back. And all these issues affect low-income people more.
    And electric cars use electricity, almost all of which comes from polluting sources, if not hydro or nuclear, also not environmentally friendly. While gas taxes are obviously too low, VMT is essential because electric car drivers need to pay for all the problems their driving inflicts on everyone. Encouragement of electric cars is big time greenwashing and dupes people into thinking driving a car for no good reason is ok.

    I agree w/ ZA: people who have cars should be required to keep them well maintained so they last longer, and should also have to watch every car trip they make sap money from their bank accounts.

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