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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 3, 2014 / 5 Sivan, 5774

Tax the roads, not the fuel

By Jeff Jacoby




JewishWorldReview.com | For decades, gasoline taxes have been the largest source of funds for building and fixing America’s highways. What happens if those funds dry up?

Gasoline sales have been trending downward in recent years, thanks in part to more fuel-efficient cars, which travel farther and farther between fill-ups. That trend is sure to continue. Federal fuel-economy standards require automakers to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2025. And the first all-electric cars — such as the BMW i3, which can run for 80 miles on battery power alone — are now showing up in dealers’ showrooms.

Transportation politics are endlessly thorny, and debates over paying for America’s highways frequently become debates about other issues, such as mass transit, federalism, and the environment. But the looming gas-tax shortfall offers a chance to repair the funding mechanism itself — one that currently disguises the costs of operating roads and gives the impression that using them is literally a free ride.

To be sure, the gas tax isn’t exactly running on fumes, however irresistible headline-writers find that metaphor. Federal taxes on gasoline added up to $25 billion in 2012; the federal tax on diesel raised almost $9 billion more. State and local fuel taxes account for an additional $40 billion annually. In Massachusetts, even before the gas tax was hiked to 24 cents per gallon last year, it was expected to bring in more than $675 million.

All the same, the writing is on the wall. Gasoline sales will keep falling, so taxes on those sales will fall as well. But highways and bridges still have to be built, upgraded, and maintained, and the money has to come from somewhere.

Actually, more money has to come from somewhere. Steel and concrete aren’t getting cheaper; neither are the expenses involved in hiring engineers and construction crews. According to Carl Davis, a policy analyst at the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, highway construction and repair costs have climbed 55 percent over the past 20 years, while the federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents per gallon. “That means drivers today are chipping in the same $3 in federal taxes per tank of gas that they paid in 1993,” Davis says, “even as the construction projects being funded with that $3 have become much more expensive.”

The problem is clear. What’s the solution?



Start with this broad principle: Highways should be paid for with funds that, first, are directly connected to the service they finance and, second, plainly visible to those paying them.

Fuel taxes are certainly connected to (most of) the benefits they’re meant to pay for: Motorists put wear and tear on the roads; taxing them when they gas up is a logical way of having them bear the costs they impose. But boosting gas taxes doesn’t solve the predicament of rising fuel efficiency. If anything, it exacerbates it: Crank up the tax on gasoline, and you give drivers more of an incentive to drive cars that use less of it, or none at all.

A bigger problem with gas taxes, though, is that they tend to be invisible. Unlike virtually every other product consumers buy, the tax paid on gasoline is hidden in the sticker price. Get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a set of towels at Target, and the tax gets added to the listed price — and is identified as “tax” on your receipt. But the only reference to the taxes you pay at the gas station are the words in fine print on the pump: “All Taxes Included.” That lack of transparency is unhealthy as a matter of principle, since taxpayers should know how much they are forking over to the government. And it’s inefficient as a matter of policy, since it furthers the illusion that transportation infrastructure is “free.”

Taxing roads has always been a better option than taxing fuel. Highways shouldn’t be freeways; like any other convenience, they should be regarded by those who use them as a service to be paid for. That was once a heretical notion, but as electronic tolling technology has eliminated the need for physical booths and human collectors, toll roads are becoming more common.

Legislation proposed recently by the Obama administration would lift a longstanding restriction on the freedom of states to collect tolls on most interstate highways. That would open the door to a far sounder way of making motorists pay for the roads they use. Tolls, unlike gas taxes, can be automatically adjusted to reduce congestion. They are fairer than the existing system, which forces drivers who never get near a highway to subsidize those who use them all the time. And, of course, they offer no escape hatch for the owners of hybrids and electric cars.

Not even if they drive one of those fancy new BMWs.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist.

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