Don't Blame the Koch Brothers (for Low Gas Taxes)

MLewyn's picture

After a variety of conservative groups (including some funded by the Koch brothers) sent a letter to Congress opposing gas tax increases, the liberal and urbanist blogospheres were chock full of stories like this one, complaining that Congress can't reach a transportation deal because (in the words of grist.org)  "of the right-wing and Koch network’s coordinated national attack on transit"  There is certainly an element of truth in these stories; indeed, conservatives don't like tax increases and are often not particularly supportive of public transit.

But this narrative misses a huge fact: its not just the far Right (or even the not-so-far Right) that hates tax increases, especially gasoline tax increases. For example, a 2013 Gallup poll asked respondents if they "would support a state law that would increase the gas tax by up to 20 cents a gallon, with the new gas money going to improve roads and bridges and build more mass transportation in your state."  Only 29 percent of respondents would support the new tax.  It wasn't just conservatives or residents of conservative areas who were against the tax either; only 40 percent of Democrats, and only 32 percent of northeasterners, supported the tax hike.  Even in Massachusetts, voters recently voted to eliminate a law indexing the gas tax for inflation.

In sum, if you think we need to spend more money on transportation, don't blame a cabal of conservatives, blame the American people, who believe (rightly or wrongly)  they can have good roads and good transit without paying more money for them.  We have met the enemy and he (or she) is us.

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