user fees

A Coterie of Unhappy Billionaires

A Coterie of Unhappy Billionaires

                        Robert A. Levine

Even billionaires must realize that America’s infrastructure is decrepit and resembles that of a third world country more than that of a modern state. For a nation whose main mode of transportation is the automobile and that moves goods mainly by truck, one would think that the federal and state governments would keep our roads and bridges in tip-top shape. But the opposite is true. Civil engineers in the last few years have given the nation’s infrastructure a failing grade between C- and D.

Roads and bridges were supposed to be maintained by funding derived from gas taxes and tolls. However, it’s been 27 years since the gas tax was last raised. It remains at 18.4 cents for a gallon of gas and 23.4 cents for a gallon of diesel. Yet in the last quarter century, the number of automobiles using our roads and bridges has increased significantly and more and heavier trucks are being used to transport goods but destroy the roads. State gasoline taxes vary from state to state but have not been high enough to keep the roads and bridges in fine condition. Gasoline taxes are basically user fees which would seem to be a fair way to maintain the roads and bridges. But many drivers are working class or middle class people who would be hurt by raising their road taxes.

And there are numerous other elements of infrastructure that need to be upgraded or installed aside from roads and bridges. We probably have the worst railroad system of any developed country in the world. While China, Europe and Japan have high speed, sleek trains that can go at over 200 miles per hour, American passenger trains creep along at speeds below 100 miles per hour. It’s no wonder that more Americans do not travel by train. But it’s not only the train that has to generate speed, the train tracks must be able to handle trains traveling at high speeds. In many areas, new tracks have to be installed to utilize modern trains.

There are also many of our airports and airport terminals that appear as if they were lifted from a third world nation. While some of the terminals are decent, others are in dire need of repair and rebuilding. And our ports need reconstructing, both to handle goods in container ships and people going on cruises or traveling by boat. Broadband access also has to be provided to rural areas and poor sections of major cities. If poor people don’t have access to the Internet for communication and education, they are severely handicapped in their efforts to advance to higher levels.

So how are we going to pay for all of these requirements to improve the nation’s infrastructure to compete with other modern nations? Should we employ user fees on everything and force poor and middle class people to pay for what is needed. Or should we just raise their taxes, Given the overwhelming inequality in America, corporations and the wealthiest among us should bear the cost of these improvements. Remember that federal and state governments are partially responsible for the success of our corporations and the wealth that the affluent have accumulated. The infrastructure that we have, allowing products to get to consumers was built by the government. Education was provided to train skilled workers.

Thus, the burden of paying for infrastructure improvements and new elements should be borne by corporations and the super-wealthy. Billionaires may not be happy but they should be taxed adequately so that no further debt is accumulated to pay for infrastructure. Remember that it was only four years ago that Trump provided1-2 billion dollars in unnecessary tax cuts primarily to American billionaires.

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