About That Gas-Tax ‘Holiday’

Proposals to give Americans a break from gasoline taxes this summer — and perhaps to offset it with a “windfall profits tax” on oil companies — are being roundly criticized by economic experts and pundits across the country. Here’s a selection for your reading pleasure:

Charlotte Observer: “This is flimflam work. The plan can only hope to provide small and limited relief. … This is still sleight-of-hand chicanery. Sen. Barack Obama … is right to oppose it. So should the rest of us. What’s needed is a president with a practical energy policy, not one who’s prone to pander.”

The Chicago Tribune: “[A] three-month break is too brief to elicit much response from refiners. They would more likely pocket the difference, leaving motorists no better off.”

Christian Science Monitor: “The tax break would add to the federal deficit. Gas-tax revenues normally go to the Highway Trust Fund, which is used to maintain and improve the highway and public transit systems.”

Dallas Morning News: “The McCain-Clinton ‘gas-tax holiday’ would be celebrated most fervently in the corporate offices of oil companies and in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and the other oil-producing nations. Your 18-cent ‘discount’? That would degrade and probably disappear faster than you could say ‘supply and demand.'”

Houston Chronicle: “What we have is a supply problem. It just seems strange to me that the people who scream the loudest about our dependence on foreign oil, Sen. Clinton and Speaker Pelosi among them, are the very ones who do everything they can to suppress production from domestic sources with repressive restrictions on offshore drilling and the building of new refineries.”

The Mercury News: “For politicians to gain any real traction, they should bring something beyond a say-anything-for-a-vote pipe dream to the table. Be bold and call for a permanent end to the federal fuel tax.”

Miami Herald: “The tax holiday — give-away, to call it by its real name — is a classic Washington palliative. It creates the illusion that the politicians are making the problem go away when, instead, they are actually making the problem worse. … [I]t does nothing to cure the underlying problem, which consists of an addiction to cheap gasoline coupled with wasteful habits like driving gas-guzzlers instead of gas-savers.”

— The Star Tribune in Minnesota: “The gas tax holiday is an empty political gesture that makes little sense. It wouldn’t put enough in consumers’ pockets to stimulate a sluggish economy. It wouldn’t solve the underlying problems that are sending gas prices soaring toward $4. And, by artificially stimulating demand, many energy experts believe it could send pump prices even higher when the gas tax kicks back in.”

Tax Policy Blog: “ExxonMobil’s recent announcement of first quarter profits of $10.9 billion has prompted the predictable political demagoguery about “obscene” profits and the need for a new windfall profits tax. … If reporters were to dig just a bit deeper into the company’s earnings statement they would find that Exxon — like all the major domestic oil companies — directly pays or remits a staggering amount of taxes to governments both here and abroad.”

The Wall Street Journal: “We tried this windfall profits scheme in 1980. It backfired. The Congressional Research Service found in a 1990 analysis that the tax reduced domestic oil production by 3 percent to 6 percent and increased oil imports from OPEC by 8 percent to 16 percent.”

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