Gas-tax hijinks

When Hillary Clinton signed on to John McCain’s proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent federal gas tax this summer and Barack Obama didn’t, the Democratic candidates suddenly had a real substantive difference to debate. The trouble is, there’s not much to argue about. Everyone who’s looked at this knows that a gas-tax holiday is a silly ...

595184_080505_gas2.jpg
595184_080505_gas2.jpg

When Hillary Clinton signed on to John McCain's proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent federal gas tax this summer and Barack Obama didn't, the Democratic candidates suddenly had a real substantive difference to debate.

The trouble is, there's not much to argue about. Everyone who's looked at this knows that a gas-tax holiday is a silly idea. With gasoline supplies pretty much fixed in the short term, demand will increase and the price will go back up. But instead of the U.S. government capturing that revenue, the oil companies will pocket it. Factcheck.org tried and failed to find a single economist who thought gas prices would drop as a result of the holiday. PBS couldn't find a supporter, either.

Asked about this by ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Hillary sniffed, "I'm not going to put in my lot with economists." What's it going to be then, prayer circles?

When Hillary Clinton signed on to John McCain’s proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent federal gas tax this summer and Barack Obama didn’t, the Democratic candidates suddenly had a real substantive difference to debate.

The trouble is, there’s not much to argue about. Everyone who’s looked at this knows that a gas-tax holiday is a silly idea. With gasoline supplies pretty much fixed in the short term, demand will increase and the price will go back up. But instead of the U.S. government capturing that revenue, the oil companies will pocket it. Factcheck.org tried and failed to find a single economist who thought gas prices would drop as a result of the holiday. PBS couldn’t find a supporter, either.

Asked about this by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Hillary sniffed, “I’m not going to put in my lot with economists.” What’s it going to be then, prayer circles?

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Now, you might say: There’s almost zero chance this proposal will go anywhere, so what’s the harm? Well, it makes no sense to say you’re for “energy independence” while vowing to cut gas taxes. If anything, the U.S. government should raise the federal gas tax to at least 50 cents a gallon, not cut it. Or better yet, tax carbon and bring coal emissions into the mix, too. But above all, don’t mislead voters about the choices before them.

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