If at First You Don’t Succeed

As the average price of gasoline nationwide topped $4 a gallon this week, Sen. John McCain said he would renew his call for a summer gas tax holiday.

The idea was roundly panned by economists (including the ones on this blog) when McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton first raised it in May.

This time around, McCain says he won’t “pretend that it’s an answer to our energy problems,” but that lower-income Americans will nevertheless appreciate the relief.

The jury is still out, however, on whether the plan would provide much relief to struggling families — or any relief at all.


Until the people and politicians of the US consider the ramifications of their actions, nothing will change.

We live in the age of short-term solutions and long-term consequences.

Matthew R.

Yes, I think the general consensus is that the gas tax holiday is a silly idea on several levels. It may have one positive, unintended consequence, however -- if we try it, and the price at the pump doesn't change very much, then the general population will realize that the era of cheap gas is over, and there's nothing we can do to bring it back. Once we've made peace with $4 gas, then we can get serious about moving on.

Ms. Truth Betrayor

Dear Frank;

I agree- we are destroying the earth- and it will destroy us as a result- so where does our destructive predisposition go from here- Perhaps we need alternatives-healthy outlets? Women talk on the phone- men play golf- no wonder there are so many tickets being given to women these days- but seriously- we need economic leaders willing to do the right thing cause it's in their true global interest. Destroy the earth, destroy yourself, your children and forget about your children's children. Catchy!


Until politicians effectively manage our traffic problems (time traffic lights, sets appropriate speedlimits, and communicate to drivers that fast smooth acceleration is best), which will be far easier, cheaper, and more effective than any currently proposed greenhouse gas controls, they should expect to be laughed at severely and harshly any time they mention Cap and Trade or Carbon Taxes.


@14 Citing disaster movies as evidence of the impact of human activity on the environment greatly weakens your argument. Disaster movies AREN'T REAL. They prove nothing more about the truth of global weather than Star Trek proves about the physical appearance of aliens.

Speculation about the effect of higher gas prices in the past can be entertaining, to be sure. Personally, I'd like to see fast silent trains that run on nuclear power and conveyor belt sidewalks like the Jetsons. Maybe we'd have electric cars, but it's far from certain that a higher cost of gasoline would have necessarily accelerated the development of, say, the high-power, high-capacity batteries that electric cars require.

In any case, claiming that there would be no more tornadoes is just silly. Tornadoes have been around a lot longer than the internal combustion engine, and they aren't going to disappear when we stop burning gasoline. The preponderance of tornadoes in the United States has a lot more to do with geography than it has to do with people.



McCain does not read, never took an Economics class but is a panderer. Is he part of the same Senate that today refused to extend the tax deductions/credits for alternative energy? It just makes you want to cry.


Send McCain the link to Budget Hero. Can't hurt.


"Why not just send people another stimulus check? Everybody wins. Except the future taxpayers of America who we are taking the money from."

Those people don't vote! Let's tax the hell out of them.


@4 Washington DC does something like that when they suspend bus fares during code red air quality days.

Jon Peltier

"Does McCain read at all?"

Bush didn't, and it never affected him.


Does McCain read at all?

(It's a valid question.. though it really shouldn't be..)


In response to #3 and generally, I'd like to remind readers that one very prominent economist has supported the idea on the editorial pages of the NY Times. Bryan Caplan, author of "Myth of the Rational Voter" said that the holiday was a good idea, though would not accomplish its stated objectives. Instead, as #3 and others point out, it may pacify the consumers and preempt truly disastrous, public-demanded policy such as rationing or winfall profit taxes.

Ms applied psycho-social babble

Dear n/a;

I am sick and tired of hearing that America is one of the richest countries on the earth- for whom? My friend is working 12-14 hour days as a professional and rarely sees her husband. she may never take time to "smell the roses." And poof- her life will be over-- So what's wealth anyway? Freud was a wise fella when it comes to wealth- he explained that we pursue wealth, power and success as if such things make us really happy, when they give us a false sense of what's truly important in life- and what is that? I am afraid the thrust of his claim will not achieve the desired effect if you don't go figure it out for yourself- so go read Civilization and Its Discontents. From my vantage point- I'm wealthy- but you won't find it in my bank account.


Why not just send people another stimulus check? Everybody wins. Except the future taxpayers of America who we are taking the money from.


How about John McCain and Obama work on making the dollar stronger and not put us further in debt with a "tax holiday"?


let the pandering resume. intrade has mccain way down from obama. he is trying to buy his way back up to even odds - or at least out of 2:1.


Why not a public transportation fare holiday? That would encourage less gas use, and help the people that need it the most.


Its like bribing a kid with candy: the kid is happy now, but the kid is not mature enough to realize that he is losing in the long term; the parent gets rid of the symptom (whining or tantrum) without doing anything for the root cause. I expect the parent, as the adult and seemingly more mature entity in this relationship to help the kid make the tough choice now for benefits that will sustain today and tomorrow.

McCain is being the wealthy Republican parent who think he can wish the problem away if he can divert the kids' attention until past November.


Well, up here in Canada we long for the good ol' days of $4.00 gas. I paid the equivalent of $5.38 per gallon yesterday for premium ($1.45 per litre).

john thyron

John McCain doesn't read this blog.