Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oregon! what's going on with you?

What's all this about Oregon's governor advocating a mileage tax calculated and enforced by satellite?

In North Korea, people leaving one locality for another have to file papers with the local party officials and security people: all movements are tracked in minute detail, and deviations can be punished. In a sense, such tracking already happens in America, but is largely a matter of passive data collection. The measure referred to in the above-linked article goes beyond the passive approach to giving certain parties (in this case, the Oregon state government) the power not only to track people's movements but also to tax them for those movements.

This measure concerns me. It should, in fact, concern both liberals (who want to fight the power, stick it to The Man, etc.) and conservatives (who are ostensibly against expansion of governmental powers) alike.

The final report [of the governor's task force studying the feasibility of this measure] detailed the technical aspects of the program. It also stressed the issue of privacy.

“The concept requires no transmission of vehicle travel locations, either in real time or of travel history,” the report said. “Accordingly, no travel location points are stored within the vehicle or transmitted elsewhere. Thus there can be no ‘tracking’ of vehicle movements.”

You do see that is this hooey, yes? Of course there's tracking going on! How else can you calculate mileage? The device isn't hooked up to the car's odometer-- it's linked to a GPS system! Just because locations aren't being "transmitted elsewhere" doesn't mean a given car isn't being tracked.

Even if we ignore the Big Brother aspect of this proposal, doesn't it seem unfair that a person will be taxed on both the gas they buy and the miles they drive? Sure, there's a gas tax refund for the driver, but it's only 24 cents per gallon. Imagine that gas prices swing upward once again to $4 or $5 per gallon, and that Governor Kulongoski's plan to raise the gas tax by 2 cents goes through. How comforting will it be to get that whopping refund, eh? About as comforting as George W. Bush's $300 rebate was, I'll bet.


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