The Gas Tax Holiday: An Election Day 'Issue'

PHOTO: Fill up your stretch Hummer

On this website, I’ve complained multiple times about the substance free coverage of the 2008 presidential battle. Finally, in the last few days leading up to today’s Democratic Primary vote in Indiana and North Carolina, we’re talking about an actual policy issue!

Sort of.

Hillary Clinton has followed John McCain’s lead, and proposed a gas tax holiday this summer. Barack Obama hasn’t jumped on board and says his opponents are pandering, citing research that says it would only save American’s around $30.

I’m going to go ahead and say reasonable people could certainly disagree on whether or not the tax holiday is a good idea—for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s a good idea—and under different circumstances, it might even be worth debating. Unfortunately, George W. Bush is still going to be our president this summer, and the chance of him signing this Clinton gas tax holiday into law is basically nil.

“But wouldn’t he sign McCain’s gas tax holiday idea into law?’ you might ask. Sure, he’d most likely help out his Republican buddy, but McCain isn’t offering to make up the shortfall in tax revenue by imposing a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Clinton is.

That little-discussed fact changes the entire character of this debate. We might think we’re debating actual policy, but we’re debating a pure political fantasy.

To be fair, I’m happy were talking about policy ideas instead of absurd character issues, Obama’s pastor, bowling, drinking beer with voters, etc. But can’t we at least focus on things that the candidates might actually be able to accomplish as President or as Senators?

Flickr photo by giginger

2 Comments

  1. Ian

    Isn’t this gas tax thing basically just trying to indirectly purchase votes? except instead of giving us her money, Hillary is just trying to give us back taxpayer, i.e. our own money? With the economy going the way it is and the dollar being as low as it is, I look with skepticism at anything that takes money away from the government right now.

  2. Chris

    Ian,
    I’d actually look less wearily on a proposal to just give people making under ~$50k a $30 a check. Then you’d at least know that it would have the effect you wanted.

    This indirect mechanism obscures and complicates the process.