New Plan. Let's Just Tax Drivers by the Mile! Update: White House Story "unlikely"

I’d like to take back all the things I said about the White House not having a plan to balance the budget. Clearly they have one, and it’s a doozy.

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration’s Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

To be fair, the President’s staff has denied having any part in this.

“This is not an administration proposal,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. “This is not a bill supported by the administration. This was an early working draft proposal that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not taken into account the advice of the president’s senior advisers, economic team or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the president.”

So where did it come from? Somebody cooked up the idea and took time out of their busy day to write it up in draft form. Even if the president didn’t float this particular specimen in the punch bowl, somebody in his department did.

Now, I can already hear some of you complaining about this type of creative solution to our budget woes, but you’re way off base here. This is actually genius in action. First, you’re probably worried that this will, in effect, act as a tax on the rich because they’re the only ones that can afford to travel very much these days anyway.

Fear not. The rich rarely drive themselves. This will mostly affect their chauffeurs.

As for the rest of us, most of the driving being done is just to get back and forth to work. Again, why are you complaining? With so many people not having jobs, it’s not like this is going to impact very many of you, either.

See? Genius!

UPDATE: I just spoke (off the record) to a political operative in DC who has access to the right people involved in energy policy about this, and the White House cover story isn’t looking very good. The idea that this was some low level staffer’s crazy draft that Team Obama knew nothing about and “accidentally” leaked out is not where this trail seems to lead. The indications are, at this point, that this will turn out to be a trial balloon that the President’s team floated with the intent of finding out exactly how badly they would get hammered on such an idea coming into an election year.

And does that strike anyone as all that unlikely? Candidate Obama made no secret of the fact that he believed higher priced gas would probably reduce consumption and spur interest in alternate fuel technologies. Combine that with their recent fixation on finding any new channel of revenue to try to drive the debt numbers down, and I’d have to say that the source is on to something here.

As they say… developing.