Taxes, Washington, and the lost art of cooperation

capital.jpgPoliticians lie, we all know that, and it doesn’t matter whether they are Republicans or Democrats. Not all politicians, of course. And I don’t think they do it intentionally in many cases. The problem is they speak too much. And as all of us know, the more you speak, the more likely you will be caught in a lie, however unintentional it may be.

Following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech back in January, the tone out of Washington was one of cooperation. Both Republicans and Democrats said they were willing to work together to help lift the country out of the Great Recession.

Guess what’s happened? Nothing. No cooperation, and very little in way of progress. The country is still saddled with high unemployment and underemployment. Consumer optimism has started to wane, the housing market remains in ruins, and there is very little news indicating that boom times are on the immediate horizon.

And what are the politicians doing to help us? They’re bickering. So much so that the U.S. nearly went into default because neither party could agree on a plan to raise the debt limit. Eventually they did, of course, but not before the stock market spent a week-plus in decline, causing many Americans to sit and watch as their portfolios – and in some cases retirement nest – plummeted.

Then comes the whole FAA bill extension fiasco. The House passed a bill, the Senate has yet to do so, and now both chambers have gone of vacation. So what’s happened? Well, because an extension bill has not been passed, the federal ticket tax expired on July 22, which means the federal government is losing about $28.6 million a day in revenue. I guess it already has enough money.

But, you ask, that means airfares are cheaper right? Not so fast. Most of the airlines immediately raised their prices to match the federal taxes, and now they are pocketing the difference. According to Bloomberg, the government stands to lose $1.3 billion by Sept. 7 if an extension isn’t passed. More than 4,000 FAA employees are now on furlough because of the bill’s stalemate.

So how does this affect trucking? Because the same thing could be happening very shortly when the federal fuel tax is set to expire on Sept. 30; the same fuel tax that provides the revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which of course, supplies the funds for road maintenance and construction, among other projects. Without federal fuel tax revenues, many of those projects would stop, and thousands of workers – federal, state and private – will have their lives turned upside down and their incomes cut.

Could Congress afford to not pass a bill? I’d like to believe not, but then the same question could have been asked about the FAA bill. And no one seemed to be too concerned with that – they left for vacation after all.

Politicians are supposed to be our leaders, our guiding light in times of need. What has the past year taught me? That my 4-year-old son’s daycare class works together better then Washington has of late.

It’s not too late for the politicians to change their ways. They must. The economy and the American people need them.

Update: A deal was reached this morning and the U.S. Senate approved the FAA bill to allow the 4,000 workers to return to work.

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