Smart guy, dumb idea

Governor Bob McDonnell is no dummy.  The man did his undergrad work at Notre Dame.

Besides, the proof is in the pudding.  McDonnell has shown brilliance in the world of politics.  He’s governor of Virginia, and he seems to have been an effective manager.  He’s even been mentioned for national office, perhaps as Mitt Romney’s running mate – perhaps in his own right.  

McDonnell can’t be blamed if his arrival on the national stage coincided with a growing national disenchantment with the religious Right, the social-conservative agenda, and those other policy distractions which have long served to sustain the party of  the 1 percent.

McDonnell had every reason to hope that America’s thirty-year rightward trend would last long enough to give him a shot at the White House.  And perhaps it will, even yet.  Certainly, the Democrats could find a way to fumble their hard-won acceptance as the party of the middle class.

But, should the Governor’s dreams prove illusions, it’s simply a matter of bad timing. No one can be blamed for that.

Besides, in McDonnell’s case, I suspect he actually believes in most of his policies.  He’s wrong, most of the time, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy – or a dumb one.
But...

You knew there was going to be a “But,” didn’t you?

But, this idea of eliminating the gasoline tax, and replacing it with a sales tax, is just plain dumb.  It could only have been proposed by someone who refuses to accept the fact that we’re living in a world which is – at best – on the edge of a long, hard slog.

Or at worst, is descending into an unimaginable, centuries-long, demographic struggle for survival.

Our planet is heating up.  I realize there are people who still question global climate change, and humanity’s role in it.  You might even be one of them.

But, scientifically, the ship has sailed.  The earth is not flat.  We are the products of evolution.  There is no Santa Claus.  Flu vaccines save lives.

And anthropogenic global climate change is upon us.  It’s happening right now.

Last year, the average temperature in America was one whole degree hotter than it has been in all of recorded history.  One whole degree.

That’s just the latest bit in the mass of data which has established – beyond a reasonable doubt – the fact of global climate change.  It’s happening.  Your kids and grandkids – and you, unless you’re lucky enough to die very soon – will see our world start to change very rapidly.

Farmlands are turning into desert.  Dry regions are going up in flames.  At this moment, the Mississippi River is so low that barge traffic is in danger of coming to a halt.

Sure, there are folks who walk from their climate-controlled homes to their climate-controlled garages, hop into their comfortable cars for the commute to an indoor parking deck, and take an elevator up to their climate-controlled offices.

But people who live and work outdoors – farmers, landscapers, carpenters, linemen, road crews – can feel the difference.  Working folks who thought global warming was nonsense five years ago will tell you things are changing, year by year.

Ask a friend who lived through SuperStorm Sandy.

We’re in it now.  The scientists – who have been warning us for decades – tell us that the effects of climate change take a long time to manifest themselves.  In other words, what’s happening now is the result of carbon emissions from twenty or thirty years ago.  

Even if the whole planet could suddenly go green, starting tomorrow morning, we’d be in for a long period of worsening conditions caused by the carbon we’ve been dumping into the air since then.

Even if we made a global effort equivalent to the greatest of human undertakings, most of us would not live to see the heat begin to subside.

But we have to start sometime.  And one place to start is by ending our dependence on petroleum.

Which is why the Governor’s idea is so incredibly dumb.  

Of course, we need to fund our transportation budget.  And yes – finally – revenues from the fuel tax are dropping, as more and more of us choose to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles.  

But the fix is not to eliminate the fuel tax.  That will just make gasoline and diesel cheaper, encouraging us to drive more.

The solution is to raise the gasoline tax – by a lot – to continue the trend away from petroleum.

Of course, the Governor has a hard time believing that.  Perhaps he doesn’t believe in the science of climate change.  Perhaps he simply realizes that Big Oil and the road-builders are good Republican allies.

Perhaps he’s still hoping they will help him realize his greater ambitions.  Because you can be he still has them.  

But eliminating the gas tax is still a dumb idea.  And McDonnell is smarter than that.

Comments

gas tax plan and what it might actually be about

This piece was excellent. Rick, I wish the Governor had the benefit of people like you on his staff. I get the feeling that he is surrounded by people who want to make him happy.
I know the governor is not stupid, nor are his allies. The only way cutting the gas tax makes any sense is as a red herring so he can reduce resistance to his uranium railroad and and other carpet bag schemes and attacks on women the "conservatives" in Virginia have fallen to lately.
At least the target of the "massive resistance" mindset is shrinking as progressive power increases.

If we don't watch out the Governor could get us thrown out of the Garden of Eden, Again!

What we need is for the Governor to find God, in the creation, and not let it be ravished or sold off to the highest bidder.
When Jesus said, paraphrasing: Give unto God that which is God's and unto Caesar that which is Caesars he was not talking about converting the creation to Caesar's. That was someone elses idea.
Governor, I am praying for you.

High praise for the author,

High praise for the author, Rick Gray, who is right on target with this article. We have a huge opportunity in Virginia, not only to make a difference by doing the right thing for our kids, but economically as well. Fewer taxes simply hasn't solved our problems and we can all see that in 2013. I would like to see a tax on carbon at the source with a rebate back to consumers to defray the expense of cleaner energy. It is working in other places and will work for us too. The future is now. Let's make it happen.

great article

Thank you for publishing such a great article. People need to realize that climate change is a serious issue that lies within the civic responsibility of each individual. While today most people consider themselves to be environmentally conscious, politicians still seem to think that it's within the best interest of the people to enforce our reliance on petroleum and other harmful habits. Show your support for the more sustainable option and then maybe the future of our planet will be taken more seriously.

Right you are! Don't drop the gas tax

You are right on the money. Don't let anyone fool you. Human made warming is a fact. The bad news is its not about beach houses and just needing more AC. Droughts, rising sea levels, and severe weather events are going to affect our ability to feed our people, and drive millions into migration to higher ground. However, some places will do better. (Think Canada and Russia) The net effect: its about our safety and security.

This isn't a liberal issue. Thinking that global warming is something cooked up by a bunch of leftists is dangerous, because it prevents the American people from coming to agreement and taking effective action. Gee, who would benefit from that? Don't let the the pundits on either side fool you. Its as solid and as real as the ground we stand on and as dangerous as anything else we face.

This is something that calls for real leadership, and I hope the Governor realizes that.

I don't follow the Governor's

I don't follow the Governor's job closely. I was impressed by his recent move to restore the voting rights of non violent felons however, a brave position it seems among his constituents. I am always impressed when politicians show the courage to step outside of their political comfort zones and do the right thing.

I COMPLETELY agree however that the notion of replacing the gas tax with a sales tax is wrongheaded and foolish for NUMEROUS reasons...not the least of which is that it makes him appear as if he has his head in the sand... Even his most ardent anti-climate-change supporters cannot deny that before our eyes the climate is rapidly changing. In this light his move to eliminate the gas tax simply will provide fodder for his political opponents to use in their anti-McDonnell ad campaigns in the surely upcoming elections in which he will run.

Thank you for posting this opinion...it is much needed and I look forward to reading more!

Gov McDonnell's Sales Tax

I also do not believe the Governor is dumb, but his values are out of touch with the 21st century and with the needs of most working Virginians. He wants to put a $100 tax on hybrids, while: spending millions of dollars to change an election system that wasn't broken but now is, giving a questionable contract to a company with ties to one of our state congressmen and then giving them a $2 M bonus even though the state pension fund that they manage lost money, and spending thousands of dollars on riot police to intimidate women and children from protesting about their health care. His plan to increase sales tax, increase tolls, privatize with tax payer dollars everything that doesn't breath, while bringing in low cost - low benefit jobs is destroying Virginia's middle class. The Governor is wrong about climate change, he is wrong about women's health, he is wrong about his rejection of expansion of medicaid and he is wrong for Virginia.

Yes, we need a forward

Yes, we need a forward thinking, future-focused governor. One who is ready to make hard decisions about what to do about sea level rise. McDonnell has avoided the subject, leaving Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore, and the Northern Neck without a plan.

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