Friday, February 20, 2009

Man the barricades! Kill VMT now before it kills our liberties

President Obama's Secretary of Transportation, former Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood, is quoted in this AP interview by Joan Lowy (the link is to the Chicago Tribune website) as at least considering a vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT tax) to replace gasoline taxes. The idea is to charge "motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn" -- something that will become particularly relevant if America really does adopt more fuel efficient cars or (even better) cars powered by fuels other than gasoline supplied by America's enemies.

Put that way it doesn't seem so dangerous, does it?

But -- think about it for a moment -- and the threat to our liberties becomes frighteningly apparent. Scroll through Ms. Lowy's article and you will come to this passage describing how the VMT tax might work:
The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.

The device would tally how much tax motorists owed depending upon their road use. Motorists would pay the amount owed when it was downloaded, probably at gas stations at first, but an alternative eventually would be needed.
A "blue ribbon" panel, according to linked article, will release a report next week recommending this -- so we are not dealing here with tin-foil beanie paranoia.

We are, however, on the verge of creating a system where the Government will know where you are, where you've been, how you got there, when you got there.... Is any of this making you uncomfortable yet? Is any of this making you furious?

The idea of a VMT tax has been floated in several states, among them Massachusetts. According to Lowy's article, "A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it's an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens."

Of course, "Orwellian" is probably too big a word for our dumbed-down populace. At least that must be what the advocates of this sort of heavy-handed tyranny must hope.

I prefer to believe that Americans are not this dumb. We are distracted. Pay no attention to those transponders in your cell phones... and now your cars.... Look! Paris Hilton forgot to wear her undies!

Well, we'd better stop being distracted.

Think, if you still can. A government that can track where you're going, when you're going, the route you're taking... such a government can tell you (quite effectively) not to go, close the route you choose... or be waiting for you upon your arrival.

I, for one, will not submit to shackles easily.


Dave said...

You're making me feel guilty for not being outraged. I guess you should have caught me on this decades ago, when I didn't fill out my long form census form because I thought it was too invasive.

Since then I've been worn down. Business and government know tons about me and you from our utility, credit card, computer and cell phone usage. Since I have a smart phone, T-Mobile and who knows who else knows everywhere I went to day, except maybe when I was down in Middle Georgia with no signal (but I think the GPS was still transmitting, I didn't check).

I tend over the years to slowly give up my privacy as the upside of technology seems to make it worth it.

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

A very though provoking Blog.

I gave up some of my rights to privacy in 1972 when I signed a document and allowing certain Federal Agencies to monitor (tap) my telephone calls.

I did this because my Father-in-Law, a Major General, was the Deputy Director of No Such Agency.

I knew that they would probably do it anyway. They at least had the courtesy to tell me that they we doing it.

But that was 37 years ago. Now they don't need a real reason. It's blanketed under the Homeland Security Act.

We are more increasingly giving up our rights of privacy because of the warm blanket that Big Brother is trying to sell up.

I Blogged about about a friend today, they call him paranoid, who has been warning everyone about this for years.

The Beach Bum