Failure to Increase the Gas Tax Signals American Decline
The country’s roads and bridges are in dismal shape. Finding the money to fix them shouldn’t be this hard.
Bloomberg, March 22, 2019
Thomas Donohue, the Chamber of Congress’ President, told Congress over a year ago that a 25 cents per gallon increase was need. (Crickets)
This year, Donohue repeated the plea. He asked Congress “How many people in this room can live off the same paycheck they did in 1993? No one. Our nation’s roads and bridges and transit systems can’t either.”
The Chamber’s plan would be to raise the federal tax on a gallon of gas, currently 18.4 cents since 1993, by a nickel per year over the next five years. Once that is passed, we can (be still my heart) begin work on a more comprehensive effort to upgrade America’s decrepit and aging infrastructure.
We have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. The U.S. often starts out full of energy and vigor when it comes to new and daunting tasks — and we have been willing to spend lots of cold hard cash. But these days, we lose enthusiasm about halfway through. The Marshall Plan and the Apollo moon mission stand out as examples of huge projects that took years of follow through. Or how about the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System, which is deteriorating even as we write because of lack of funding from the gas tax? But it’s harder to name recent bold projects of comparable scope that have been undertaken and seen through to completion . . .
I originally published this at Bloomberg, March 22, 2019. All of my Bloomberg columns can be found here and here.