article: How to Pay for it?

How to Pay for It?
Commentary Read on KGNU fm Boulder County Community Radio 9/22/01

By Joseph B. Juhasz

What this country needs is less talk of crusades and blood vengeance and more problem-solving aimed at reducing our vulnerability to terrorism. Less excitable thrashing about threatening vengeance and escalating blood-letting, and more sober and determined reform of a country dreadfully exposed to sabotage and terrorism.

Domestically, a constructive beginning would be to use this moment of unity and this national emergency to introduce legislation that would galvanize the country, avoid the threat of depression without wasting men and money on war and munitions, and first and foremost repair the obvious domestic problems that were exposed by the effects of the terrorist sabotage that we have witnessed.

A three-pronged approach would include:

1. A national defense transportation act,

2. A national defense communications act, and

3. A national defense energy production, distribution, and conservation act.

Together, these three actions would provide alternatives to airlines and the car for transportation, provide a communications network that couldn’t be crippled by over-demand or sabotage, and an energy production, distribution and network which when coupled with conservation would assure that neither sabotage nor disaster nor blackmail could cripple our country.

I have earlier outlined the details of such programs. In this commentary I shall concentrate on the ways in which such programs could be funded. If due to the crash of confidence in the American economy there is the threat of economic decline, the way back to health is not by pouring money into bullets or thinning out the ranks of the unemployed by drafting them into the army but rather in priming the pump for recovery.

Investing in new transportation infrastructure will make the country more competitive–but these investments cost money. The answer to the funding problem lies in creating a national defense transportation tax for the life of this emergency which places a surcharge on means of transportation according to how energy intensive and vulnerable they are. Further, this tax should be dedicated to the rebuilding of alternative transportation systems. The tax needs to be “geometric” in nature–thus driving a vehicle that gets 15 miles to the gallon, for example, should no be twice as expensive as one that gets 30 miles to the gallon–but rather four times as expensive. Diving to work solo in a car should not be ten times as expensive as taking a bus, but rather 100 times as expensive. You get the idea: tax waste geometrically–create alternatives–build new profitable infrastructure–increase security.

With regard to the national defense communications act, this infrastructure is easily paid for by taxing advertising on television and print media–particularly the advertising of harmful and wasteful products–and the taxing of commercial broadcast media at their true market value–charging for the use of the public airwaves. Further the exemption for sales tax enjoyed by dot com’s should be lifted. Finally, senders of junk e-mail solicitations–currently outlawed–should face fines that could be yet another source or revenue. Together these revenue streams can easily pay for the profitable investments in a secure communications infrastructure.

Finally, the funding of a national defense energy production, distribution, and conservation act needs to address the horrific waste exposed in part by the recent California energy “deregulation” fiasco. While our energy production, distribution and conservation systems are woefully out of date and dangerously un-redundant, our infrastructure of wasteful and relies on conspicuous consumption of misdirected energy. Why do we build buildings that need central heating and air-conditioning? Why do we allow inefficient home appliances and office layouts? We saw that with even existing poorly designed buildings California could save more than 10% of energy use without any pain as supply went down and pricing went up. We need to tax energy use in a geometric fashion. If you have the same number of square feet of usable space as your neighbor and consume twice the energy, you should pay four times the amount that your neighbor pays. The money generated from this national defense tax will be more than sufficient to create a more efficient and therefore more profitable, safer, and better world.

Last, but not least, a severe tax with severe penalties on war profiteering!

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