Big Brother wants to ride shotgun in your car

I'm a near RINO from the suburban Northeast who supported Rudy Giuliani and the Patriot Act.

So when my back is up about a proposal as being destructive of civil liberties, maybe this is something that might resonate with the apolitical general public

Oregon looks at taxing mileage instead of gasoline

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes. ......

In Oregon's pilot program, officials equipped 300 vehicles with GPS transponders that worked wirelessly with service station pumps, allowing drivers to pay their mileage tax just as they do their gas tax.

Whitty said the test, which involved two gas stations in the Portland area, proved the idea could work.

Though the GPS devices did not track the cars' locations in great detail, they could determine when a driver had left certain zones, such as the state of Oregon. They also kept track of the time the driving was done, so a premium could be charged for rush-hour mileage.

Another concern is that such devices could threaten privacy. Whitty said he and his task force have assured people that the program does not track detailed movement and that driving history is not stored and cannot be accessed by law enforcement agencies.

"I think most people will come to realize there is really no tracking issue and will continue to buy new cars," Whitty said, noting that many cell phones now come equipped with GPS, which has not deterred customers.

Well, Mr. Whitty, last time I checked Verizon didn't bill me based on where I made my calls. I also can turn off my cell phone, now can't I.  Verizon also is not the government.

Let's look at this extraordinary proposal. I'm sure Oregon needs money to fix roads and maybe the gas tax is obsolete. Fine. But do we need to respond by creating a system where the location of every vehicle in the state is tracked every moment of every day on whatever road it gets driven on?

I have an EZ Pass to speed my way through toll booths in NY State, NJ  and MA. They've been very effective in divorce litigation to puncture alibis.  This would be taking that de minimis privacy violation (one can choose not to use EZ Pass) and placing it on steroids.

I'm not buying "the technology is primitive" argument. I've seen pictures of my house on Google Earth where the color of my car in the driveway was easily visible. I have little doubt a GPS tax tracker will become equally detailed.

There is also the fact that once the American public buys into allowing their cars to be tracked morning, noon and night by the government all you fans of the Second Amendment will find this puts limits on gun registration on the road straight to Heller.   (yep, you can't ban guns but we'll put tracking chips on all of 'em)

I recall Chris Dodd shut down the Senate when the FISA act was used to "invade the privacy" of a few terrorists calling overseas. I'm sure now the Senator will voice outrage that technology would be used to track the whereabouts of every law abiding citizen in a, ahem "Countrywide" fashion?   Right? It's one thing to trade some freedom for security. See Justice Jackson's take on this. 

 Trading our liberties to make the taxman's job a bit easier? What of that, our liberal friends?

There's a reasonable , less intrusive way to implement this. If the state wants to tax the use of certain roads and do "time of day' pricing in congested urban areas, just put up old fashioned toll booths and let people get EZ Pass if they choose. And if they want to do a mileage tax, make it like the 1040 and require drivers to self assess annually. The shortage (if any) can be paid at sale or trade in of the car by checking the odometer and collecting the shortfall then at time of transaction.

Simple, proven and no privacy concerns.

But the bigger implications here is that liberals want to change behavior and know about behavior. It's not about collecting the most money the most effiicient way possible to pay for their stuff.  Many people in government aren't mercantilists, they are social engineers.

And a database of personal whereabouts is a virtual treasure trove for them to correct our behavior. Maybe I should trust the goverment with this personal data.  After all, this stuff is never used to harass political opponents, now is it? 

Now , you might think... this is just some tree hugging state on the Left Coast out to impose itself on its populace. Not so. This is gonna to be , as ZZ Top sang, bad, and nationwide

There is kind of a coalition that's naturally forming around this.....

Congress is talking about it, too. A congressional commission has envisioned a system similar to the prototype Oregon tested in 2006-2007.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing is considering calling for higher gas taxes to keep highways, bridges and transit programs in good shape.

But over the long term, commission members say, the nation should consider taxing mileage rather than gasoline as drivers use more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.

As cars burn less fuel, "the gas tax isn't going to fill the bill," said  Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee


We are likely to see a tsunami of lefty social engineering proposals try and blitz a dazed public in the first weeks of the Obama Administration. I would like to think this is one socialist vehicle that ought to be disabled in the driveway before it gets down the road and runs down the Fourth Amendment.  

Who's with me?

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