We need a gas tax

Christina Greer, PH.D | 11/19/2015, 12:21 p.m.
Last year we filled our gas tanks with fuel that was almost $4 per gallon, but this year will be ...

As many Americans get on the open road to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with friends and family, many people are noticing the dramatic difference just one year can make. Last year when many of us packed up our cars with dreams of filling our stomachs with turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pies and the like, we also filled our gas tanks with fuel that was almost $4 per gallon. This year, many people across the country will notice that gas is at quite a low and is nowhere near $3 per gallon. In many places across the country, gas isn’t even $2.50 per gallon! Therefore, now more than ever, it is time to implement a gas tax.

I know many people think I am a bit overzealous in my request for a tax, but we must remember the purpose of paying a tax. Currently, this country is running a deficit in the trillions. Simply put, we need more money in the coffers for a host of things: schools, infrastructure, Medicaid, social services and programs, and so much more. When a country is engaged in two relatively large-scale “military interventions” for well over a decade, the billions per day tend to add up. Because Americans still have an unhealthy reliance on foreign oil for SUVs and other large vehicles, the need for gas will continue to be a source of tension in this country. Why not add money to the pot while gas prices are low? Many Americans would barely feel the tax leaving their wallets, considering a small gas tax would not even increase gas prices to $3 in most places. Why not take precautions to secure our economic future just a bit?

We know why most politicians would not suggest a tax—it could be career suicide. However, we do know politicians respond to constituent requests. I always advocate for folks to write their elected officials about the issues that excite or frustrate them. Therefore, if we want to think about the future, let’s pay a small price today so we don’t have to pay an even bigger price in years to come.

Most people remember paying $4 per gallon (or more) just a short while ago. That price could become the new normal, or worse, we may look back in years to come and wish gas were still at the “discount price” of $4. Let’s act collectively now and pay a small tax. Let’s not be free riders—those who receive a collective benefit without contributing their full share. Because if we aren’t careful, in the future there will be no free rides to be found.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is a tenured professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.