Score One for Obama

Cite this Article
Thomas A. Lambert, Score One for Obama, Truth on the Market (May 02, 2008),

I’ve been waiting for my old con law prof to take a political stand I could really get behind, and he finally has. Barack Obama is the only one of the presidential candidates to take a firm stand against this shamefully populist gas tax holiday. Good for you, Prof!

Now, I’m not normally a big tax guy. Taxes generally expand the government’s coffers, enabling the state to do more of the stuff I don’t think it should be doing, and lots of taxes (e.g., capital gains taxes, Sen. Obama) create terrible, wealth-destructive incentives. But not all taxes are created equal. Activities that impose costs that are not borne by the people engaging in the activities – negative externalities, to use economic jargon – may be appropriately taxed. Gasoline consumption, which creates all sorts of negative spillovers, is one of those activities.

A friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen for a while came over the other night. I laughed when I realized he’d traded his ridiculous monster truck (he’s a city boy who definitely doesn’t need that much vehicle) for a sensible Honda Civic. “What’s up with the ride?” I asked. “Gas prices,” he replied.

What good greenie (as Hillary is trying to portray herself) or economically astute policymaker (as McCain is trying to portray himself) could think this is a bad thing?