On Monday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to announce a "big week for Infrastructure" (again) as the administration is set to roll out a $1.5 trillion plan to invest in American infrastructure. The administration claims that by relying on state and local governments, and with reductions in the federal budget, the cost to the federal government will be just $200 billion.
This is nonsense. Congress just passed an outrageous $419 billion spending bill. The so-called $100 billion in "spending offsets" turned out to be faked with budget gimmicks. There's no reason to believe Congress will cut spending to pay for infrastructure when it has already shown the American people it has no problems with trillion-dollar deficits. What's more, Republicans on Capitol Hill are already discussing ways to fund the infrastructure plan with a tax increase on gas.
The Washington Examiner reports that Republicans are talking about raising the gas tax. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing them to consider an increase of 25 cents per gallon, predicting it would generate some $375 billion over a decade.
The current federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon. If the Chamber of Crony Capitalism gets its way, the raised tax would be a whopping 43.4 cents per gallon. Republicans are open to the idea.
“For Congress to pass an infrastructure bill, it has to be bipartisan, and it has to be fiscally responsible, and every option for addressing the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall should be on the table for discussion,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Shuster reportedly lobbied other House Republicans at the recent GOP retreat to consider raising the tax on gasoline.
One argument being advanced by supporters of the tax increase is that increased vehicle fuel efficiency has led to a decline in gas tax revenues. Since Americans are visiting the gas station less frequently, there have been so-called "chronic shortfalls" of gas tax revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. The tax increase, they say, is necessary to keep our roads from crumbling. As long as the gas tax is used solely for roads people drive on, even some conservatives are open to the tax increase.
“The gas tax is a pact with the public, if spent properly, that says when you buy gasoline, we charge you money and spend all of it on the roads and bridges you are driving,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. “It's more palatable to constituents. People are upset about the wasteful government spending they see in Washington, D.C. But generally, they are not upset about money spent on infrastructure. So, you have to consider those two things differently.”
The issue is that gas taxes are not solely used for roads and bridges. The Highway Trust Fund has previously been raided by Congress to pay for other government programs and avert government shutdowns. The gas tax has also been used to fund mass transit projects in just a few major cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. As Massie explained, these are precisely the problems House Conservatives would have with a gas tax increase.
“I would need a lot of guarantees about how the money is going to be spent before [voting] for a gas tax increase,” Massie said. “There is no way I would say I am openly for a gas tax increase. I am not saying never. I am not drawing a red line.”
The American people should say never. The federal government is projected to take in $3.654 trillion in tax revenue for fiscal year 2018. There is no revenue problem that necessitates a tax increase of any kind. Congress has a spending problem, and rather than make the government live within its means, politicians want to make Americans pay at the pump for their profligacy.
Republicans are finally seeing public opinion swing in their favor over the tax cuts passed last fall. Are they seriously stupid enough to throw all that awa — yes. Yes they are.