Politcal ads for and against Proposition 87 in California have become rampant on the TV here recently. The official title of this is
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. RESEARCH, PRODUCTION,
INCENTIVES. TAX ON CALIFORNIA OIL PRODUCERS.
INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
What it proposes to do is put up to a 6% tax on the value of every barrel of oil extracted from the ground in California, and use the proceeds to fund research in alternative fuels and infrastructure, with a stated goal of reducing oil consumption in this state by 25% by 2017. It has a provision that states that the oil companies so taxed will not be allowed to pass on the cost of this tax by raising their prices. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But is it really?
The ads for and against this measure are reaching a pretty high level of vitriol, each claiming the other is falsifying the facts. Pretty normal doings for the political arena, though I find the whole process of politics by sound-bite and mud-slinging distasteful and unlikely to lead to proper logical conclusions by the electorate, but given the level of voter apathy it may be the only way to least get some attention paid to things like this.
But what I find very disturbing is the implicit assumption of this measure that the government has the right to arbitrarily decide that some business (or type of business) is making too much money and that therefore their profits are fair game to be scooped up and spent on whatever the government decides is a good thing. This is the communistic concept of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”, and at least to my mind, has no business being part of the American political landscape. But it seems that this type of mind-set has thoroughly infected the law-making bodies and citizenry of this country – if it’s there, let’s grab it, just because we want to and think we can get away with it. In blunter language, this is effectively looting.
This doesn’t even consider the fact that the measure is poorly written. How the tax would be applied has a huge gray area that will take the courts some time to interpret, exactly what product and what lands are covered is not totally clear, just how they are going to go about enforcing that ‘no pass along price hikes’ provision looks like either a bureaucratic or legal nightmare, and what the companies most affected by this measure will actually do if it passes is not even considered.
Maybe we should be passing a Constitutional amendment that prohibits discriminatory taxation practices instead. If the goal is for the common good of all, then all should be taxed to fund progress towards that goal.