It’s election season and finally there’s a bit of good news for California politicians seeking reelection. A recent Field poll shows that, for the first time in 7 years, there are more California voters that think they are financially better off than those who believe they are worse off.
However, for the political elite, that is the end of the good news. The poll also reveals that more than half of voters, 53%, see the state being in economic bad times while only 25% see these as good times. And to top it off, there are more Californians who believe the state is headed in the wrong direction as opposed to those who think the state is on the right track.
If politicians believe they can weather what they hope is a passing public relations storm, it is time to key the chorus of the Bachman Turner Overdrive song, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”
California has changed a great deal in the last 50 years, but there is still one constant that the state is famous for – the California Car Culture. But now, lurking just around the corner are carbon emission fees to be charged to oil companies as part of the state’s cap-and-trade program. The cost to consumers will be huge and painful. These fees are expected to add at least 15 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas in the short term and nearly as much as $2 per gallon over the next five years. Even powerful Democratic Senator Darrel Steinberg has suggested the increase could be 40 cents a gallon, which is why he has suggested charging a smaller amount directly to consumers, rather than to the oil companies.
Compounding the pain inflicted by California’s regulatory overreach, it looks like Washington wants higher gas taxes, too. In what is being billed as a bipartisan proposal, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn) are promoting a 12 cent increase in the federal gas tax that currently sits at 18.4 cents a gallon.
To the well off driving luxury cars, the price of gas is meaningless. If you’re paying over $400 for a bottle of your favorite Cognac, then $5 per gallon gas isn’t even going to raise your eyebrows. Moreover, many of the political elite – usually among the wealthy themselves – will be thrilled if the high cost of fuel drives average folks to mass transit. To their way of thinking, these changes will improve the environment and provide the additional benefit of opening up the roads for those who can afford high priced luxury and exotic automobiles. Obviously, they have no intention of joining the great unwashed who will now be forced to ride the bus or the train.
For average working folks however, more increases in the cost of gas will have a devastating financial impact. Wealthy environmental do-gooders who favor imposing a low-calorie diet on others may get their way as more and more families will be forced to choose between enough gasoline to get to work and a full grocery cart.
Working Californians struggling to support their families will not take kindly to having the cost of their commute artificially inflated by the political class. Their anger will not be dissipated by having those on the left wagging their fingers at them while saying they should move closer to work or find a job nearer to home or take the bus. Easy for the political elites to say when jobs are scarce and the cost of housing is tops in the nation.
But is the potential for a tsunami political backlash waking up our elected leaders? We hope so. Last month, 16 Democratic Assembly members, who are in touch with their constituents’problems, sent a letter to California Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols, urging a delay in the implementation of the state’s cap-and-trade program. (To their credit, the Republicans have always been skeptical of the program). Seeking relief for their constituents, the Democrats wrote,” many of the areas we represent are still struggling with double digit unemployment.” In fact, these lawmakers concerns are shared throughout the state. Unemployment remains high with several million Californians unemployed or underemployed and adding to the cost of energy and fuel will do nothing to help the state out of this economic hole.
What California could use right now is a bipartisan effort in Sacramento. Sensible Democrats and Republicans should take immediate action to lift the state’s boot from the necks of working people, and the businesses that employ them.
* * *
About the Author: Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.