Not Going the Extra Mile

I read this story Sunday about the State of Oregon developing a plan to tax the mileage that drivers drive rather than taxing gas.  Why?  Because cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and the state still needs the dollars.  The rate they are discussing e would equate to $1 per 400 miles, (a buck a tank for me) not an onerous amount.  However, a lot of things about this concept bother me, I have a blog, so I thought I'd express my opinion. It feels like punishment for living in the country - Most of my life, I've lived in rural areas.  Driving 20 minutes to church has been the norm for me.  When I say driving 20 minutes to church I don't mean 6 miles away but I catch 25 lights, I mean 15-20 miles away.  So this idea of taxing mileage feels like a tax predominantly against rural places.   A gas tax is much more evenhanded, because cars burn gas while idling.  Many of the most rural places are also the poorest places in this country.  Folks in the Appalachians can least afford this tax which will hit them the hardest.

You can't tax my school bus - Are government vehicles and state officials going to be exempt from this tax?  Currently, a police car and a school bus is subject to gasoline taxes, at least at the federal level.  For some reason though, I don't forsee my senator's car or the garbage truck being fitted with one of these GPS systems.

I'm not a conspiracy theory nut, however - Something about putting a government-owned lo-jack system in my car gives me the willies.  It feels very big brothery.  I assume that I only have the illusion of privacy now.  If the government really wanted to find me, they could, I'm sure, but it just makes me uncomfortable putting a device in my car for the explicit purpose of tracking my whereabouts.  Besides, It's none of the state's business where I go.  (I probably just set a record for made-up words in this paragraph)

Smoking is bad for you, but please don't everybody quit - The hypocrisy of every politician screaming "green, green" and being addicted to the money the gas tax generates is similar to taxing cigarettes through the roof in order to "get kids to stop smoking" and using the tax money to fund education.  If all the kids stopped smoking, there would be a major revenue source for schools missing.  This is the same thing.  Politicians universally say, we need more fuel efficient cars, and alternative fuel sources, but won't know how to survive without the taxes.

I understand that the state has the responsibility of upkeep on roads.  And I believe that we do need to develop alternative fuel sources and more fuel efficient cars, but I am uncomfortable with this system of generating the income.  I know that New Yorkers pay almost nothting in gas tax now because they walk where they go, but this system seems inherently unfair.

I have no answers, just wanted to weigh in with my opinion.  As always, feel free to chime in in the comments and tell me why I'm stupid or uninformed.

Legislating Morality pt.1

This post is in response to a question, although it is not a direct answer to that question, the question is what got my mind working on this answer.

Here's the question:  Is it, a violation of separation of church - state to invoke biblical morals or biblical definitions of marriage or sin into law?

I often hear people say you cannot legislate morality. In fact, I believe all legislation is legislating morality. Let’s chose 3 random laws and see that they all convey some moral imperative.

  • Speed Limit – this law implies that as a society we value the worth of human life. Therefore there are restrictions on how you can drive so as not to endanger yourself and others with what is undoubtedly an extremely dangerous piece of machinery.
  • Voting age – this law implies that we as a society value the democratic process deeply. And we desire to have well-informed voters making decisions for our country. It is safe to assume that school-aged children are not well informed and would not make good voters.
  • Pay Taxes – this law makes it clear that we believe that many things must be done for the good of our entire society. The only way to pay for these things is for everyone to chip in. People won’t contribute without being forced so we make it a law.

Here are 3 laws seemingly unrelated to morality that have a moral principle attached to them. That human life is important, that freedom [therefore democracy] is important, and sacrifice for the common good is important.

If all legislation is tied to morality, then we have a duty to legislate morality.

If we believe it is morally wrong to do activity X, then we are wrong not to make activity X illegal. So let’s pick an obvious example; murder. Everyone I have ever known believes that murder is morally wrong. This is a non-gray area, and consequently, murder is illegal. Here’s another example; lying. Most people believe that lying is wrong under most circumstances. Consequently, we have laws against lying in important circumstances, such as, for example, in a court of law.

But what about areas where there is genuine debate in our society about what is moral and not? Then it seems that there must be some compelling reason to change the laws as they are currently established. For those people who, for example, believe that it is morally allowable to smoke marijuana, they would need to show some reason why the state would be better off by allowing it and changing a long-standing law. That is almost always a hard way to go.

Here is the final thought for this post - SOMEBODY'S morality is going to be reflected in every law.

(I have divided this post in two parts because it was entirely too long.  Please come back tomorrow and read about who decides morality.)