I went to bed at my usual time and somehow slept through my alarm. I woke up to NPR telling me that the feds are talking about raising the gas tax 40 cents a gallon. I don’t know how it is where you are, but that’ll raise gas around here to almost four dollars a gallon. This, they claim, will encourage people to use public transportation and also raise money for our crumbling bridges.
I, myself, like to drive. I find it soothing and adventurous. Driving takes you places.
And, in a country as large as ours, I’m suspicious of any government efforts to keep us from traveling. It’s much too easy to forget about the on-going suffering in the wake of Katrina if you can’t make plans to travel to New Orleans or Biloxi. It’s easy enough to believe that sticking a wall up between here and Mexico is a solution to our immigration issues if you haven’t seen neighborhoods bisected by it. You can turn a blind eye to what goes on, say, on the south side of Chicago if you’ve never gotten lost there.
There’s something about having been to a place or having the ability to go to a place that makes it more real. Makes you feel tied to the people there and concerned about what happens to them.
And so, it concerns me when I see the government suggesting that we all need to do less traveling.
No, really, we need to do more, so we can keep an eye on you.
I read this post over at Nowhere, IL and it made me kind of sick to my stomach (even though the post itself is, in spots, pants-pee-ingly funny). Three reasons.
1. Cairo should hold a place of importance in our national imagination. This is the town Huck and Jim were aiming for–a port large enough to have steamboats that could take Jim to freedom. We shouldn’t leave it to die.
2. I would love to own a house and I could afford a $20,000 house. But the places with $20,000 houses don’t have jobs.
3. It reminds me that the Midwest is slowly dying, emptying out like a bucket with small holes. I have mixed feelings about growing up in small Midwestern towns but I don’t want to see them become ghost towns in waiting full of only the people too poor or drunk (or high on meth) to leave.
I am opposed to increasing the tax on gas because it so disproportionately affects the poor.
And yet, clearly, we need to do something.
Here’s what pisses me off, though. Again, this is another case where it’s made out to be that poor people just aren’t compliant. We’re refusing to take public transportation. We’re refusing to curb our fuel consumption. We must be made to feel the real costs of our energy problem before we’ll do something about it.
I live a ten minute bus ride from where I work. I work at one of the largest employers in the state. The bus comes by twice. Once shortly before six and once shortly before seven. There’s such half-assed public transportation in my city of 500,000 people that I cannot get on a bus during prime commuting time and get to my place of employment.
I can’t take a train to Memphis or Knoxville, even though there are train tracks that go to those places from the place I live.
I can’t get on a commuter train on the weekend and even get near Mack’s house. I could get on the train to go see Coble, but someone would have to drive me home.
My point is that we’re going to institute punitive levels of taxation in order to get folks to change their behaviors and most of us have nothing to change our behaviors to.
Here in middle Tennessee, if you live out and work in (as most people do in order to find affordable housing), you’re especially stuck. They’re not putting up $120,000-$150,000 condos here in the city. So, sure, well-off people who feel the pain of rising gas prices can just move closer to work. But for folks who aren’t that well off?
What choices do we have but to sit and watch yet another chunk of our budget getting eaten away?
And the thing is, it’s not just the gas we put in our cars. High gas prices get passed along to us in the cost of goods we need. I’m already paying $5 for a gallon of milk that even 18 months ago I was paying $3 for. What’s it going to be when they factor in a forty cents a gallon further tax on fuel?
The rich can hold out a lot longer than the poor.
So, damn, America, if you’re going to tax our only means of getting around to the point where we can’t afford to get around, that’s going to really suck. If we can’t have cars, can we at least have some buses and trains?