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.