Whoa now. Let’s hold our horses a minute and think about the calls for new tax increases to fix our infrastructure problems. The Minneapolis bridge collapse is a tragedy, but we can’t let it be used to compound other problems – which is what will happen if we’re scared into raising gas taxes.
As we all know, there are few things more permanent than a temporary tax. Just ask the folks who footed the cost of the Spanish-American War for the past 108 years via a federal excise tax on our phone bills. Congress is contemplating a new “temporary” 5-cent increase in the federal gas tax –(already at 18.3 cents a gallon), which is on top of the state and local gas taxes that have been in place over the years – to finance a “trust fund” for infrastructure repairs.
The cause of our infrastructure troubles is not a lack of money; but the politics and bureaucracy that have built up around the funding process. Now, the people who have done their best to micromanage local infrastructure spending from their Washington D.C. offices are exploiting tragedy to further federalize our transportation system. Why don’t we let states determine which infrastructure problems are their priority? Are bridge repairs a priority in Arizona? Alaska? Hawaii? Maybe, but let’s let the people decide what needs fixing, when, and how they want to pay for it—taxes, bonds, or tolls, for example.
Real improvements in infrastructure, to promote safety and reduce congestion and traffic delays, are possible. But it can only be done by giving the control of construction and funding decisions to those who use the roads and bridges, not through higher taxes and more federal mandates.
Only in government is it even possible to think that you could be rewarded with a bigger budget for totally messing things up in the first place. Why can’t we leave infrastructure issues to the people closest to where the rubber literally hits the road?
Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.