Desperate Times Mean Desperate Measures
One sign that the Democrats are getting increasingly concerned about their potential losses in the upcoming midterm elections is that they're frantically trying to find ways to, at least temporarily, deal with the soaring price of gasoline. The president's decision to further deplete the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a prime example, but it isn't the only one. Here are a few others:
- Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot recently announced that the city would spend $12.5 million on 50,000 gas cards -- each worth $150 -- to be distributed to residents of her city through a lottery. The Lightfoot administration will offer another 100,000 cards, each worth $50, for the use of public transportation in the city.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers in several Democratic controlled, high-tax (but I repeat myself) states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York, are considering the possibility of temporarily suspending their local gasoline tax. Connecticut, meanwhile, has already suspended its gasoline tax until at least June, and heavily Democratic Maryland has done the same for 30 days. All of those states have gubernatorial elections in the November, and all but New York and California are expected to be competitive. But even those 'Safe D' states have to worry about the ugly congressional math projected for this Fall.
- Six Democratic governors -- Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, Colorado's Jared Polis, Minnesota's Tim Waltz, Pennsylvania's Tom Wolf, New Mexico's Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Wisconsin's Tony Evers -- have called for the suspension of the 18.3 cents per gallon Federal gasoline tax through the end of this year. Once again, each of these states is likely to have a contentious gubernatorial election in November.
California deserves its own special mention here. Golden State governor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled an $11 billion relief package in the hopes of combating the state's highest-in-the-nation gas prices. The average price in California recently hit $5.88 per gallon, though it has passed the $6 mark in many areas. As the Wall Street Journal notes dryly, "Gasoline prices in California are often higher than in other states due to higher fuel taxes and stricter regulations." No kidding. More than $1 billion of the Newsom proposal comes from the gas tax reduction.
The biggest chunk of money, however, is allocated to issuing $400 debit cards for all registered vehicle owners (with a two-car maximum). Unlike the Chicago gas card plan mentioned above, which is directed towards middle and lower income residents, Newsom's plan has no income cap. Neither is it targeted towards the owners of gas-powered cars. Electric vehicle owners are also eligible. For some reason. The cost: a cool $9 billion. Newsom also called for $750 million to be spent on free (at the point of service) public transportation for three months and, this writer's personal favorite, $500 million to "promote biking and walking."
Now, all of these plans are expensive workarounds which ignore more straightforward solutions. They're also transparently self-serving, temporary in nature, and of questionable efficacy -- as Jinjoo Lee recently argued, the degree to which these temporary cuts "translate to lower pump prices partly depends on the size of the market and how strained a region’s refining system is." Still, as vacation season approaches and the war in Ukraine drags on, it is better than nothing.
And, more important, it is a refreshing sign of politicians' accountability to the voters. To see the opposite response, here's Steven Guilbeault, former Greenpeace activist, and (God help us) Canada's current Environment Minister, explaining his opposition to proposed fuel taxes in that country. He said, "All of these crises will go, but climate change will still be there, and climate change is killing people." Guilbeault's party just made a deal that keeps them in power until 2025. He's not accountable to anyone.