Even as the White House rolls out its new two-fisted climate-change agenda and dares anyone to stop them from cranking up the cost of energy, we learn California is pitching in by finding new ways to humiliate and control its citizens, courtesy of CBS News in Los Angeles:
The California Legislature is looking at a voluntary program that would tax motorists for every mile they drive.
KCAL9’s Bobby Kaple reports that Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced a bill to test out the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax because the state’s gas tax was no longer bringing in the revenue it used to due to people driving more fuel efficient vehicles.
The program is modeled after ones in Oregon and Washington.
“We want to do as Washington and Oregon have done in a much bigger state with much longer commutes…to make sure that we find out whether it would work, whether the public would like it or not,” DeSaulnier said.
It’s unknown how much the tax would be, but Oregon currently charges its volunteers 1.5 cents per mile.
“All of those things would be determined. We would let the agency determine that because this would be a voluntary program,” DeSaulnier said.
Southland commuters were not thrilled about the idea of a VMT tax.
“I bought a hybrid…one, because of my drive. I’m very opposed. I drive to Brentwood every day from Burbank, and I am already paying more than I should be,” Carmen Smith said.
“So if we go on vacation and I drive up to Mammoth, that’s 600 miles. We’re being taxed on vacations?” Kim Robinson said.
Well, yes, Kim Robinson, you'll be taxed on vacations. And for long commutes to work. And for shopping expeditions. This sort of thing won't be a "volunteer" program for long, if test programs conclude it can be rammed down peoples' throats without triggering a tax-serf revolt. It's not just about capturing more revenue, or making up for the taxes lost to decreased gas consumption from fuel-efficient cars. (Hey, does everyone remember when that was a selling point for buying such cars - you'd pay more for the vehicle, but less per mile for your travel?)
No, the most important thing about concepts like the VMT program is that they will change the way you think. You'll rethink every trip you make, re-evaluate your recreational driving activity, and do whatever you can to minimize the impact of a per-mile tax, the same way you avoid all other taxes. The power to tax is the power to destroy, after all. In this case, it is the power to immobilize.
That's a feature, not a bug, as any environmentalist would be willing to admit to a friendly audience. Anything that causes people to consume less energy is good for the Earth, especially in the SUV-infested wastelands of flyover country. But it's a also feature of socialism, not just environmentalism. The Church of Global Warming is the official state religion of America, because its catechism involves the abject submission of the inferior peasant class to their betters. The peasants must have less money to spend, fewer options in their lives, and less of that accursed mobility the Twentieth Century gave them.
Central planners are terribly vexed at the way you Little People keep moving around and spoiling their plans. It was a stroke of genius for them to persuade the younger generation to view economic liberty as an inherently destructive force. By learning to view their ambitions as planet-destroying, socially unjust greed, they became less ambitious, and therefore easier to control.
The Church of Global Warming devoutly believes that the Little People should be slaves to nature. "Green energy" programs boil down to making people dependent upon the rising of the sun and gusting of the wind for power. It also makes them more comfortable with living under a massive government with the moral right and practical power to choose winners and losers in the economy, since those green energy projects make very little economic sense, and are utterly dependent on special subsidies and regulatory advantages. The solar panel and wind turbine become new symbols of the aristocracy, something the rest of us are forced to pay for, to the advantage of politicians and their well-connected friends. We are made to kneel, as the fortunes of the Ruling Class and their business partners rise.
Of course, you'll notice all of the environmentalist doomsday scenarios contain special carve-outs and exemptions for the aristocracy. No one has a bigger "carbon footprint" than the popes and bishops of climate change. They'll retain their private jets, limousines, and gigantic estates, thank you very much. They'll even do business with foreign oil interests, as Al Gore did when he sold off his failed TV network, and will entertain not a word of complaint about it from the peasants.
The environmentalist crusade against energy is a system that manufactures inequality, but we're not supposed to criticize it, because unlike the robber barons of capitalism, the doomsday princes deserve their fabulous riches. Raising the price of energy through taxes and regulations, as President Obama is hell-bent on doing, won't inconvenience politicians much. You sure don't see Obama or his family flying less often because they're worried about carbon emissions, do you? And you never will. Unlike you, he belongs in the sky, and you pay for the fuel he burns. What does he care if it gets 15 or 20 percent more expensive to light and heat his residence?
And even though the nominally private members of the aristocracy do have to pay their electric bills, they can easily absorb the rising costs that will ruin the Little People... and, more crucially, the small-business competitors who challenge elite interests. Expensive energy, like the burden of hyper-regulation, is a formidable barrier to the scrappy newcomer looking for a shot at the markets, but a manageable cost for large and entrenched operations.
Income mobility becomes ever more difficult to achieve as the basic cost of living rises, prominently including energy. The working poor grow more dependent on government subsidies for food and transportation. The middle class has less money in its pockets to finance funny ideas the Ruling Class wouldn't approve of. There are few jobs, which means more wards of the State. We are satisfied with less, because we have agreed it is sinful to desire more. People grow more accustomed to being managed by their government, rather than being served by it. The ability of the elite to designate opponents as "enemies of the Earth" gives them a powerful political weapon.
Climate change theology is one of the most potent intellectual vehicles for the preservation of aristocratic privilege ever devised, because it persuades the Little People to pass moral judgment against themselves. No millionaire Hollywood celebrity is going to think twice about reducing his travel because of a vehicle mileage tax... but the rest of us will, and we will be taught to feel ashamed of objecting to the arrangement. If half of human behavior can be monitored and controlled under the rubric of socialized medicine - because the State, working as guardian of The People's collective interest, has a fiduciary interest in our health - then radical environmentalism provides the tools necessary to control the other half.
And let's not underestimate the delicious thrill of climate change alarmism, which is an expression of arrogance - not just against "deniers," who the Faithful are encouraged to think of in subhuman terms, but against nature itself. If we can destroy the world inadvertently, just by living prosperous lives, then we must be gods of destruction. The aristocracy loves that image of divine Man ascendant over a fragile earth. They think the "sustainable" solution is to make Mount Olympus a rent-controlled neighborhood reached by very expensive toll roads, to keep out the riff-raff. The rest of us are to flog ourselves when we feel any desire for the carbon-spewing luxuries enjoyed by the rightful Olympians - the luxuries you will notice none of them have the slightest intention of compromising, no matter how dire the latest White House environmental screed makes the situation out to be.