It was one of those proposals that had political “win-win” written all over it.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms had called for a 90-day waiver on the gas tax – 7 cents per gallon – charged by the county. Who’s against pump-price relief in the age of rapidly ratcheting gas prices? And if it doesn’t happen, well, you can only look good trying.
Turns out there are some legal and legislative hurdles that preclude immediate action. It also means the county would be out more than $30 million in revenue annually.
Maybe even more to the point, however, a waived local-option gas tax would send yet another counterproductive, post-1973 Energy Crisis message. To wit: We should be able to ad hoc our way through another energy squeeze borne of finite oil supplies, politically unstable sources and – to thicken the plot – the ever-increasing demand resulting from India and China’s commitments to globalization and industrialization.
Recall that more than a quarter century ago President Jimmy Carter tried to rally Americans to the need – indeed, patriotic duty – of conserving energy. He called it the “moral equivalent of war.” Partisan politicians and an ad hominem-enamored media roundly ridiculed the phrase and caustically converted it into the feckless acronym: “MEOW.”
And the Manhattan Project of energy, of course, never happened. Neither did an effective equating of energy saving with logic, patriotism, economic self-interest or national security.
What did happen is that we borrowed more time – at usurious rates.
Time, as it turns out, to tinker with wind mills, ponder drilling where it previously had been off-limits, build a few butt-ugly hybrid vehicles, downsize a Hummer model and subsidize the likes of (ethanol-producing) Archer Daniels Midland. But no post-MEOW politician wanted to be the one to dare ask the citizenry to take one for Team America. That quaint concept went out with victory gardens, ration cards and the “Greatest Generation.”
But now, more than ever, we need that societal, common-good compass. The one that reminds us that Americans’ birthright is democracy — not the “good life” absent any sacrifice. Frankly, a hike in gas taxes, to encourage conservation, actually makes more sense than a waiver — but is tantamount to political suicide for any advocate.
America was forged out of a crucible where freedom had to be fought for and died for. Now this country is in – and make no mistake about it – a civilizational war. Why would we think we can possibly win it without some sacrifice from all our stakeholders? Anyone for asking “what you can do for your country”?