Once born, tolls and taxes never die

masspiketolls.jpgLiberals like to use taxation and regulation to bring about social engineering. Unfortunately, they also use those tools as an opportunity to expand the reach of government through new programs funded by those new taxes. Thus they tax cigarettes, for example, rather than outlaw it, so they can fund health-care for poor kids, which is one of the ways they sell the tax to voters. But when the tax has its effect, as in reducing the number of smokers, the liberals cry that these “vital” programs created by these taxes are under-funded, and so another new tax is born.

The latest example of this round-robin is the gas tax in Massachusetts. Years of increasing gas taxes, plus increases in the cost of oil, have forced taxpayers to buy more fuel-efficient cars—whether those cars are otherwise the best car for them or not—or to ride public transportation. This led to decreased purchase of gasoline and lower revenues from the gas taxes, which in turn led to shortfalls in funding for road maintenance and whatever other less necessary pork projects the solons on Beacon Hill dreamed up.

And so, they’re dreaming up new ways to tax us like Gov. Deval Patrick’s idea to create open-road tolling or tracking the mileage you drive and charging you a mileage tax. Open-road tolling means cars drive at highway speed through places on the highway where receivers in the road pick up radio-frequency transponders rather than forcing cars to slow down to go through electronic booths or to stop to give money to a toll taker.

Placing more tolls on fewer drivers is not the solution

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When you’re in over your head, stop digging. That old saw same to mind as I read this article that says fewer people are using the Massachusetts Turnpike because of rising gas prices so they’re thinking of raising tolls to compensate. Huh?

Drivers, struggling with high gas prices, avoided the debt-plagued Pike this summer as the department’s finances inched closer to junk-bond status yesterday.“This is yet another wake-up call,” said Pike board member Mary Connaughton. “Barring some type of state aid, the only solution is a toll increase.”

Typical liberal thinking. It ignores actual economic behavior or that people will act in their own self-interest. What we see is that commuters who are cost-conscious are finding alternate means of getting to work because of a rise in the cost of commuting. So is the solution really to increase the cost even further? That will only drive even more tollpayers away from the Pike and exacerbate the problem.

I’ve told the story before of the Democrat Senator in the early 90s who asked the Congressional Budget Office to conduct a study of the potential revenue from a 100% tax on income over $1 million. That is, you pay normal rates on all the money you earn up to $1 million, but every dollar you earn above that you turn over to the government. He was actually surprised to learn the CBO’s answer: The potential revenue would be ZERO. If the state confiscated all income over $1 million why would anyone bother earning that much? Better to let the company keep the money to invest in itself, in new employees, pay raises, capital improvements, than to simply give it away.

What the liberal Senator—and the liberals running the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority—don’t seem to get is that taxpayers and commuters act in their self-interest and aren’t just waiting for some out-of-touch bureaucrat or politician to tell them what to do.

I have a suggestion to the Turnpike Authority: How about cutting tolls and then cutting costs and seeing how many more people, not fewer, start using the Pike.

 

Is this a safety problem? - Updated

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So Melanie’s “Murphy’s Day” has a sequel: “Weekend at Murphy’s”. To recap: Melanie locked the keys in the minivan yesterday while she was out with the kids at the post office plus her iBook’s AC adapter died.

Today, I left work a little early to stop and get my auto inspection sticker—Massachusetts’ annual safety and emissions testing regime designed to soak “revenue enhancements” out of taxpayers for the privilege of owning a car and driving. Even though I have a bit of a bumper problem, as in one side of the plastic fascia is hanging a bit because of a mishap Melanie had a couple of years ago, and a license plate problem, because it got a bit crunched by a Jeep that backed into Melanie, I wasn’t worried about it failing the safety inspection since the same station passed the car in the same condition last year.

You see where this is going.

So now it is illegal to drive my car until I fix those two items and get the car re-inspected. Meanwhile we have to figure out some way for me to travel 30 miles each way to work every day until then while also having a car available for Melanie in emergencies and even just to run her regular errands. Unfortunately, public transportation is no help for me because we live at the opposite extremity of the MBTA system from work. (This is the reason we’re looking for a new home!)

Very frustrated now. About all I can do at the moment is pray for patience and that the Lord’s will be done.

Update: Took the care in today to the shop I should have gone to in the first place. Long story, short: He eventually fit me into his busy day, wired the hanging bumper back into place (it had torn loose the screw holes), and then gave me a passing inspection sticker (ignoring the license plate which I don’t think is part of their inspection scheme anyway). The best part is he only charged me for the inspection, not for fixing the bumper. (I could have gone back to the original place to have them re-inspect it for free, but they were so rude and unhelpful I didn’t want to see them again. The additional $29 was a small price to pay to fix the bumper.)

And so after only 1 missed day of work (or more accurately, working from home) we’re back in business. Thank God.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. Photo is in the public domain.

Commuter Feed: Good idea, not ready for prime time yet

At first glance Commuter Feed seems like a good idea. It harnesses the power of Twitter to get regular commuters to update traffic conditions in real-time as they travel from their mobile phones.

Big companies like Smartraveler have been doing this for a while using their own sensors and observers and police reports, but Commuter Feed is supposed to harness the power of “the social”, i.e. the great cloud of Web users.

Here’s the flaw though: It relies on people typing out messages on their phones while driving. This is a problem. There are enough inattentive drivers out there talking on their phones, we don’t need to add texting to the mix. Just recently we had a case locally of a guy who hit and killed a 12-year-old boy because the driver was texting on his phone.

Okay, if you’re stopped in traffic that’s not moving, it’s one thing, but if you’re moving even at a couple miles per hour, you’re too likely to be distracted enough to bump someone around you.

You could use a voice-to-text system like Jott, which I’ve used with success for note-taking and other application several times recently, but it’s not easy to follow the exact Twitter format that Commuter Feed demands from a voice prompt. I’ll have to experiment with it.

Commuter Feed is a good idea, but I would recommend that if you can’t use it with a voice-to-text system that you leave it your passengers or only send in the notice after you’re in the office. It’s too dangerous otherwise.

N.B. I have left feedback for the developers asking them to add integration with Jott.

 

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