Saturday, June 14, 2008

Freedom Machines.

Federal, State, and Local Spending on Surface Transportation Infrastructure, by Type, 1956 to 2004, in billions of dollars

I would call a bike a freedom machine. Others call cars freedom machines, including Terence P. Jeffrey. He is a columnist at whose writings are sometimes published in major newspapers. He recently wrote an article decrying recent threats to the car, and it begins as follows:

Recent evidence that automobile use is declining in America and that some Americans are making significant -- and in some cases not readily reversible -- changes in their lives because of escalating gas prices should be worrisome signs for those who love liberty.

No device is more in keeping with the American spirit than the automobile. Privately owned cars and trucks allow us to go where we want, when want. They are freedom machines.

Still, some liberals would like to use government to force Americans out of their cars.

They believe in socialized transportation, not free-market transportation.

In a free-market transportation system, a person purchases his own vehicle with his own money, buys his own gas with his own money and can drive his vehicle anywhere there is a road -- and, if he has the right kind of vehicle, some places where there are no roads.

Admittedly, the roads generally are constructed by government, albeit with funds extracted from the earnings and gasoline purchases of drivers.

In a socialist transportation system, the government takes the taxpayers' money and purchases vehicles -- often buses or trains -- for itself or a government-funded agency. Where and when these vehicles go is determined by the government.

In a free-market transportation system, a person travels solely in the company of people with whom he has freely chosen to travel. In a socialist transportation system, a person may be compelled to travel in the company of people he does not know and who could even be a danger to him.

Whoa! Regardless of your view on the merits of driving a car (I happen to drive one myself....much more than I'd care to admit), this guy is a clown.

He calls driving cars "free market transportation." That is a lie.

According to the Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office in October 2007:

Spending on surface transportation infrastructure by all levels of government in 2004 was $191 billion (in 2006 dollars), or 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The federal government provided about one-quarter of those funds, and states and localities provided the rest. Those funds were split about equally between spending for capital projects and operation and maintenance. Most of that spending was for roads.

The graph at the top (from the same source) shows that, in 2004, government spent about $130 billion on roads. Of the total $191 billion spent on surface transportation, the federal government (aka gas tax funds) covered approximately 1/4, or $48 billion of that cost. I am sure that Mr. Jeffrey would like all of that federal money to have gone to road infrastructure, not public transport. So let's assume that all federal money did go to roads (which it did not) That still means that, in 2004, state and local governments spent $82 billion on roads that was not covered by the federal gas tax ($130 - $48 = $82).

Travel by car is not a "free market" mode of transportation when you consider the $82 billion dollar tax subsidy for road infrastructure that is not covered by the federal gas tax.

This guy is a total fraud. If you love your car, then drive it. Great. Wonderful. Have fun. Just don't lie to me and tell me how I (and every other taxpayer who may or may not own a car) am not subsidizing this endeavor.

Here's another money quote from the article:

Hopefully, the 8 percent who have taken to socialized transportation represents a trend that can be reversed.

Wow again. This guy actually wants those who take public transportation to stop it because it offends his sensibilities.

His main point in the article is that America should start drilling its own oil. The funny thing is that he sabotages his argument and shreds his own credibility by needlessly lying, resorting to silly propaganda ("changes in their lives because of escalating gas prices should be worrisome signs for those who love liberty;" cars are "freedom machines;" etc.); and breeding fear through classism and racism: "In a socialist transportation system, a person may be compelled to travel in the company of people he does not know and who could even be a danger to him."

That's a really good point. The RTA rapids during rush hour are very dangerous and filled with the dregs of society. No one is safe there. Once, I even got hit in the head by a businessman's briefcase who wasn't paying attention while he was walking down the aisle and talking on his cellphone. I was so traumatized by the event that I needed to take the day off and go for a "free market" drive on our glorious roads.

Thanks to BikePortland for the heads up on this topic.


cyclonecross said...

It's a really rosy picture that Mr. Jeffery tries to paint. In addition to the infrastructure costs surrounding automobiles consider the following:

the cost of the vehicle, depreciation, insurance, licensing, parking, loan or lease payments and interest;

tires, oil, other maintenance, and repair;

pollution from the manufacture of, operation of, maintenance of, and disposal of vehicles;

the cost of vehicle accidents and fatalities from them;

the increased cost of health care for the obese and sedentary;

the cost of gasoline itself pales in comparison to the costs incurred by this country by the war in Iraq;

How many hours out of the average person's work day go toward paying for the above expenses? I wonder if anyone has taken the time to accurately calculate the date of a "Car Freedom Day" as would relate to Tax Freedom Day?

We Americans need to WAKE UP and realize we don't own our automobiles, OUR AUTOMOBILES OWN US.

Anonymous said...

a bit late to comment on this ... but I just read Connie Schultz's July 2 column in the Plain Dealer, and thought of this posting.

She writes about a woman who won't apologize or feel bad about driving her gas-guzzling Suburban.

The woman says, "we are not addicted to oil. We are addicted to freedom".

Apparently the irony of that statement is lost on both the woman and Schultz. I'm guessing this idea of "freedom machines" has somehow started to make it into the vocabulary of the gas guzzlers.