According to two higher powers – Ronald Reagan and the Bible – taxing SUVs makes perfect moral sense
Last week, Mayor Karl Dean made mention
of his desire to create more permanent funding for mass transit. As a rare politician with foresight, the mayor knows that our future entails gas prices rivaling a four-bedroom house in Brentwood. And since our transit system has been awash in crimson ink as of late, Dean’s trying to ensure today that we won’t be highly screwed and homebound tomorrow.
The problem, of course, is where to get those funds. Most cities typically rely on sin taxes – like those on cigs and liquor – or what’s known as the Ol’ Gouge the Visitor Method, by which cities crank up taxes on things like hotels and rental cars. They’re the path of least resistance, since the pro-smoking lobby is not exactly a dynamic political force, and it’s easy to gouge tourists because they have no recourse at the polls. Welcome to Nashville. Could you please empty your pockets?
But it’s a little unfair – not to mention unoriginal – to keep picking on the same people. Which is why I humbly offer a new proposal: a sin taxes on SUVs.
Before setting your phasers to kill, hear me out. I don’t have a personal problem with SUVs. Like cigarettes, they’re perfectly legal. But since they have little utilitarian value—most are used for nothing more rigorous than driving over curbs at the mall—they’re largely a vanity purchase. And vanity, as we know from the Good Book, is a much bigger sin than smoking delicious American-made tobacco products.
Then there’s the theory of “user fees,” pioneered by the great right saint Ronald Reagan. It was his thesis that people who used certain services or resources were obligated to pay more for them. But since he didn’t much care for the phrase “tax hike,” he simply raised “user fees,” thus maintaining conservative cred while still charging people more. Behold the beauty of semantics.
Under Reagan’s thinking, we should be placing greater fees on SUVs, since they’re responsible for the lion’s share of unnecessary gas consumption that will eventually force us all to use mass transit. And because they’re also a product of vanity, higher fees would provide incentives for owners to limit their destructive behavior, just like we do with taxes on cigs.
So, who’s with me?