Tom Friedman on the Gas Tax Holiday

The New York Times’™ Tom Friedman might make heads explode all around the progressive blogosphere, because for once, he’™s right: The McCain proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax is (at best) tactically shortsighted, and strategically, a huge loss for American taxpayers. It’™s time to stop this movement in its tracks.

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Let’™s put this one in the ‘œeven a broken clock is right twice a day‘ file. Tom Friedman returns from an extended hiatus at the New York Times with a barnburner of a column. He takes on the gasoline tax holiday being proposed by John McCain, the concept of which is now also apparently being embraced by Hillary Clinton.

Friedman writes:

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’™s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering’¦

It’™s nice to see Friedman jumping on the bus. Two weeks ago, on ASZ, I wrote:

John McCain is proposing a temporary cessation to the federal gas tax, which would save consumers about 19 cents per gallon at the pump. Unexplored in all of the breathless media reports on his bold proposal is an examination of how much further that such a move would drive the federal deficit into the red. Let’™s also make sure we understand: the federal gas tax is primarily intended to build and maintain the American national highway system. If McCain suspends the federal gas tax, we’™ll have many more bridges collapsing, more potholes unfilled, and road construction projects put on hold.


Let’™s also stipulate that an ill-advised cut in the federal gas tax isn’™t meant to help the average ‘Murican. Any call to eliminate this tax is being driven by lobbyists for companies who rely on transportation to get their goods to market. Neither McCain nor the GOP gives a rat’™s ass that it’™s now costing you $50 or $60 to fill up your tank. This is all about lowering embedded costs for the GOP’™s corporate sponsors.

There are two ways to instantly drive down the price of oil: immediately suspend contributions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and begin a controlled drawdown of the SPR. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – that is more strategically important to the United States than the economic health of the country.

With oil companies once again reporting record quarterly profits, we should probably add a third incentive for oil companies to get behind a reduction in prices: a windfall profit tax.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

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