Mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of tax­a­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

In his May 8 op-ed, “The bal­lad of the bad CAFE,” Charles Lane got most of his facts right but failed to un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing prin­ci­ple sup­port­ing the fed­eral gas tax. Mr. Lane ap­par­ently be­lieves that the U.S. gas tax of 18.4 cents per gal­lon was es­tab­lished as a means to limit fuel con­sump­tion and en­ergy use. Congress in­sti­tuted the mod­ern fuel tax about 60 years ago to help fund con­struc­tion of the in­ter­state high­way sys­tem. De­spite oc­ca­sional tin­ker­ing by Congress, about 85 per­cent of the tax is still des­ig­nated for this pur­pose. Un­sur­pris­ingly, in most European Union coun­tries, the gas tax is just an­other con­ve­nient method to fill the trea­sury. For ex­am­ple, more than half of the gas tax money col­lected in Ger­many — roughly 40 bil­lion eu­ros per year — goes straight into the gov­ern­ment’s pocket.

One must also con­sider how such a deeply re­gres­sive tax af­fects the poor, many of whom must use their cars to get to work ev­ery day. Un­like the fed­eral fuel tax, CAFE stan­dards were and are in­tended to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing fuel use and emis­sions pol­lu­tants. Mr. Lane should not have tried to equate the two re­quire­ments.

Paul Rankin, Rockville

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