Earlier this week, I reported that Mr. McCain was calling for a suspension of the gas tax this summer. I also remarked on Senator Clinton's potential support for that policy. She has now followed through, and has also made calls for the suspension of the gas tax.
Many are saying that this will cost America $1 billion that would otherwise go to fix our decaying transportation system. It is likely that gas prices will not be significantly reduced, and this tax break will, in all likelihood, end up benefiting the oil companies.
I am glad to hear that at least one of the candidates is refusing to pander to voters on this most-important issue. Senator Barack Obama, Democratic front-runner, is calling a spade a spade. While I don't necessarily agree that pandering is the natural state of Washington, I can certainly understand where he's coming from, especially with regard to the blatant disregard for good policy that is coming from the Clinton and McCain camps.
Still, Mr. Obama's message leaves a little to be desired. He recently reiterated his support for Amtrak and for building a better high-speed rail network in this country, but he has not yet asked Americans to change modes, nor has he promised to significantly change the way we build transit in America.
In all of President Bush's States of the Union, he called for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Not once did he ask Americans to try the bus. Not once did he promise a spending package that would start a wave of new transit construction across the nation. Instead, he called for new fuels (to be delivered sometime in the future) and a switch to biofuels (also to be delivered sometime in the future).
Asking Americans to switch to transit would produce an immediate reduction in oil usage, especially if it was coupled with subsidies to reduce fares and the construction of new lines.
I encourage Senator Obama to continue his fight to reduce America's dependence on oil (foreign or otherwise). I also encourage him to think strongly about a real transit policy. No developed country in the world has so many big cities and so few subways.
With oil supplies being used at an ever-increasing rate, now is the time to change our transportation policy. The next president will preside over the reauthorization (or lack thereof) of the next transportation spending bill. As yet, none of the candidates has satisfied me with a decent transportation/energy plank. It's time for that to change.
The question is, is it a Change Mr. Obama can believe in?