Is Raising Federal Fuel Taxes “Political Suicide” For President Trump In 2020?
For Republicans, they understand their voting base generally opposes increased taxation due to a principled belief in smaller government and a distrust in politicians who recklessly and inefficiently spend tax dollars.
Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform and is an outspoken critic of increasing federal fuel taxes.
On a recent edition of Fox Business Network’s “Bulls & Bears,” Norquist warned GOP leaders, “It is political stupidity at the highest and most suicidal level.”
Americans for Tax Reform estimates that for every 1% gas prices increase, $1 billion is taken out of consumers’ pockets.
At a time when the economy is showing some signs of slowing, enacting a tax on fuel would most likely negatively impact economic growth.
Echoing that opinion is Fox News host Tucker Carlson. On a recent edition of his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he said if President Trump wanted to ensure his defeat in the 2020 presidential election then he should “go with the gas tax.”
Calling such a policy “disastrous” and “nuts,” Carlson said increasing federal fuel taxes is “so mindless and counterproductive there’s literally no way you could get re-elected after doing it.”
Democrats Are Warming To A Gas Tax Increase
It’s not just those on the American political right who have been opposed to such a measure though.
Democrats fear enacting such a regressive tax because it would disproportionately hurt lower income Americans, many of whom are minorities, which democrats rely heavily on to win elections.
However, support for increasing federal fuel taxes has been growing on the left in recent months.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, continues to urge lawmakers to increase the gas tax to inflation.
Under his plan the tax could go up no more than 1.5 cents per gallon per year. The smaller increase, DeFazio recently said in a committee hearing, “is not going to be particularly disruptive of people’s personal budgets.”
Add to this the fact that the 2018 freshman class of House Democrats, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has warned the U.S. only has 12 years to dramatically reduce carbon emissions or our nation faces grave peril due to Climate Change.
Increasing taxation on gasoline is now seen by a growing number of Democrats as a necessary step to reduce the number of Americans who can afford to drive which will result in fewer miles driven and less carbon emissions.
Cutting a deal with President Trump and the GOP on infrastructure which includes increasing federal fuel taxes would allow Democrats to pin the inevitable unpopularity of such a measure on Mr. Trump and his party, while accomplishing a rising policy goal for the left.
Republicans would likely try to sell their acquiescence as an unavoidable compromise with Democrats in order to secure a grand bargain on a badly needed infrastructure spending package.
However, it is unlikely Republican voters would accept such rationale and could even serve to dispirit and disillusion some supporters of President Trump ahead of 2020.
Powerful Trucking Stakeholders Push Forward
Meanwhile, powerful trucking stakeholders continue to push Congress to pass a federal fuel tax increase.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently announced a new national multi-media ad campaign calling for Americans to demand action from their representatives on infrastructure.
ATA and some Republican lawmakers like Senator Susan Collins (R-MA) continue to put the onus on President Trump to support raising federal fuel taxes in order to secure an infrastructure deal.
“I think we need to see an infrastructure package from this administration,” Sen. Collins recently responded when asked about her support for hiking federal fuel taxes.
What will President Trump do? Whatever he decides could go a long way in determining his re-election chances in 2020.