Monday, October 28, 2013

The New "Black Box" Tax Plan

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If you took a road trip this summer, you likely noticed America's roads are not so good. By most evaluations, they are in terrible repair---"crumbling," many say.

Ronald Reagan once said the 10 most terrifying words you will ever hear are, "Hello, I'm from the government. I'm here to help you."

"Government" has a plan to raise the money to fix the roads. "And," they say, "it's fair."

The solution to our crumbling roads? A little black box in every car.

It fits neatly by the dashboard.

Not only does the new "black box tax" fix our roads, but those who are advocating for it see a number of other "benefits" that can come from the black box.

A number of large cities and states are at various stages of pursuing this opportunity with interest.

One Northwest state is very, very interested.

The Los Angeles Times says these "little devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and will transmit that information to bureaucrats," will help fix the roads.

With that information, they explain, government can draft a tax plan that will charge people a tax based on how many miles they have actually driven during any given time frame.

In fact, "the black box" not only records how many miles you've driven, but where you drove while logging those miles--and the date and time of those trips.

Hasan Ikharta, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments says, "This is really a must for a nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do."

California plans to start gathering mileage data from every Californian motorist by 2025.

I'm not surprised the Tea Party is aghast over this, but was a bit surprised that the LA Times is reporting the Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the black boxes to track the movement of citizens.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says he too sees the "box" as "the most viable long term alternative to fixing roads.

Adrian Moore, VP of policy at "Reason" hails the black box tax idea as "responsible" saying, "This is not just a tax going into a black hole. People are paying more directly into what they're getting."

Of all the cities and states moving toward this model, the LA Times says Oregon is moving faster and with more interest than the others. The Times says Oregon "is the most interested of all, and are already enlisting 5000 drivers in the country's biggest experiment."

Nevada has already completed its pilot program, while New York City, Illinois and 17 other states in the East are moving toward the "box," or at least studying how they can implement the concept.

There is conversation in Washington State as well.

This is not an entirely new idea. It is actually the expansion of an idea that is already in place.

The Seattle Times reported earlier this year that "the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission was proposing regulations requiring auto manufacturers to include data recorders in their cars by September 14, 2014, which could automatically record data like actions of the driver seconds before a crash and vehicle response."

However, government is running a little behind. Most car makers have been doing this for some time. The car maker device automates 5 to 10 seconds before a crash, giving the manufacturer critical information.

King County Detective Dave Wells told NPR earlier this year that these sensors that car companies are already installing in most cars are "very helpful to authorities in gathering data after a car crash for insurance investigation law suits or even criminal cases, but that wasn't its original purpose."

"That wasn't its original purpose."

Perhaps this is one of the most important considerations of this entire issue.

Some of the purposes, other than original purposes, are already being discussed by advocates:

  • The taxes could be rigged to help change driving habits and patterns, helping conform citizens to new ways to reduce highway congestion.
  • Environmentalists see the "black box plan" as a tool to reduce the amount of driving overall to help accomplish the ambitious global warming goals set by the Green community.
  • Most lawmakers seem to favor it. It creates yet another new tax revenue stream.

It appears to me that some form of this new tracking device will be mandated in the future---unless citizens oppose it and do so emphatically.

We'll watch this.

It's difficult for me personally to embrace the idea. It's predatory, as most government surveillance programs are.

It's also difficult to see it as a "must have" new tax administered by the government, while we listen to the ever evolving tale of our government's abuse in surveillance.

Those strongly advocating the "black box tax" program are also cautioning it should be implemented "incrementally," suggesting if it is implemented too quickly, citizens might be concerned about privacy issues.

Whether it comes quickly or slowly, it is a plan ripe for abuse. And multiple applications. But its fair, they say.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.


  1. How can this device activate "just a few seconds BEFORE a crash'? Prove it!!! This is just another way for our government to take more money from us than we have. They are not doing the job as it is now, so why give them more money? They are not spending the money they have properly now!!!! This is just another way of LTS (License To Steal). I and many others can sure help them to spend the money correctly and reduce costs and not do what is NOT NECESSARY!

    1. It's an erroneous description. They don't activate just before the crash. In reality, they are recording all the time you drive and constantly over-write the last few seconds or minutes. Then in a crash, they stop recording so that what is saved in memory is the last few seconds or minutes recorded. Pretty logical, actually.

  2. Question? Why are the American people not screaming "taxation without representation". This is ridiculous! I don't see The Tea Party stating the obvious in a lot of cases just like this one. And part of the bragging rights that Americans had in comparison with a lot of eastern European countries is that we are free to roam from state to state without any monitoring or state infringement. And now they are proposing just that? American's, wake up! Our freedoms are being removed right under our complacent noses.

  3. If they are going tax me on the miles I drive based on the information collected by the black box, I am assuming the government will eliminate all of the gasoline taxes already being collected. Currently I am charged highway tax on the gasoline I buy for my boat which oddly enough is not used on the roads.

  4. Ok, Gary, it's clear you don't like this approach. But the states are just being proactive. It's very clear that electric cars, hybrids, and just plain increases in mpg will drastically reduce gas consumption and the resulting taxes needed to maintain our highways.

    If you don't like the black box approach, what is your alternative solution to this serious oncoming problem? You seem to be long on complaints but short on solutions.

  5. If black boxes are installed in automobiles two things could happen, people cheat the boxes and people drive less negatively affecting commerce.

    Oh I forgot the worst part another nail in the coffin in the suspension of our freedom.

  6. 10:47 I agree with Gary. I do not want the government logiing every thing I do. I think most Americans agree. One suggestion would be for government to focus the trillions of dollars we are already spending and direct some to infrastructure.

  7. Google does aerial recordings of our homes/yards. Drones fly by overhead, doing more surveillance. Cameras in our towns and cities record our movements as we walk out the door. Camera record driving errors and automagically we receive a traffic violation ticket. And now, our autos will have trackers monitor our moves, while we forget to turn off the GPS on various electronic gadgets tracking us.

    This is the new land of the free, where freedom reigns for all. Me? I'm standing outside naked for the next Google fly by and I'm planning on getting more horses for transport. At the least, the latter add jobs to the economy.

    Freedom is being sacrificed for the sake of convenience. How convenient is that?

  8. Anyone read the Declaration of Independence lately?

    It is clearer than ever in 2013 that Americans are more apt to follow like sheep to secure the comforts we are entitled to, than to cry foul and risk losing all familiar sanctuary.

    The way the nanny state is welcomed by so many people is proof that the great ideals this country was founded on have been relegated by most to the history books. Actually, I haven't read a public school history book in awhile. Perhaps they've been removed from that forum as well. I am deeply saddened by this. I am an American Citizen. I do not believe my rights to privacy are negotiable. I do not want Suzy bureaucrat tracking my driving, and I pay taxes because that action is my faith in our country and the legitimacy of our government. I am the one giving permission for the government to rule. It is not the other way around. No one has the right to stick a black box in my privately owned vehicle.

  9. Ok take a breath. This issue is because the old tax system on petroleum fuel is going away by the growing population of electric cars.

    The fuel tax worked well - the more you traveled the more it cost, it scaled well with inflation. If all vehicles were using such an easily taxable commodity this issue wouldn't even have come up.

    But now with electric cars you can 'fill up' with less than a dollar's worth of fuel all of it with no road usage tax. States like Washington are implementing stop gap measures by adding an annual fee for using an electric car but that isn't scaled according to usage.

    So rather than getting upset - look at the problem and propose a solution because all of them are unpleasant in some way.

    Outlaw electric cars - the Luddite approach of limiting technology to things easily taxable.

    Or treating electric cars differently:
    Only allow cars to charge at government taxed electric stations.
    Have a meter in the car and tax the person periodically on the amount of electricity that's gone through the system.

    Or, as this proposition goes
    Tax all vehicles by how many miles they travel no matter what kind of fuel they use. You can see how this would be the solution that would be the most long sighted.

    So, what solution would be best? I don't even like the idea of the gps tracking device that the auto insurance companies are already letting people voluntarily put in their cars but how are would YOU suggest we figure out road usage taxation when the only real common denominator is mileage driven now?

    I'd love to hear your solutions that take all this into account.

    1. I would advocate for open source software to be required in all government functions, from voting machines to mileage tracking. If citizen experts could analyze all the code, we could be relatively assured of how the data is stored and used and what it actually does. It's our code, we should know what's in it.

  10. Call me simple but a few easy and private solutions rapidly come to mind. Every year owners are required to register their vehicle(s) so requiring them to report their odometer mileage would not be difficult. Sure there are those that will falsely report but I see those people every day in the commute lanes; regardless, a powerful deterrent is to have mileage verification added to all traffic violations with under reporting carrying the same weight as other tax evasion laws. If the government must be involved then mileage reporting could simple be added to the Vehicle Inspection Report to be completed during emissions testing; clearly this would mean that no vehicle would be exempt from this event; sure it will create a few new positions at the stations but it should be easy to create an express lane for those vehicles not needing an emissions test. While these solutions inform the government of actual road usage they do not invade a citizen’s right to privacy.

  11. Automatic license plate recognition.

    Look it up. Your battle for privacy is already lost.


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