I’m writing this particular post from my hotel room in Durham, NC, just across the way from Duke Hospital where my dad had surgery on yesterday. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers. He came through surgery just fine – although the family and I are quite worn out from dealing with Duke (yes, if you follow me on twitter, you’ll note that I’m still bitter about the complete lack of compassion and consideration demonstrated by the folks at Duke – it was very shocking).
As I was in the hospital room yesterday, I thought about a lot of things. At one point, I was holding my dad’s hand while he told me how much he hurt and watching my mom’s eyes turn even more red from exhaustion and worry, and it hit home how much it can suck to get older. So many things change. And so much of it is beyond your control.
In the midst of all of this, as I stood there pondering life, my dad cracked an inappropriate joke. It was, however, pretty funny and it made us all smile – heck, my brother and I laughed out loud as my mom kind of smacked him and put his oxygen machine back on his face. And in that moment, I realized that there is at least one perk to getting older: you are increasingly emboldened to say exactly what it is that you think without worrying about the consequences.
Just ask Alan Greenspan. And now, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH). The 74-year-old Senator (and former mayor of Cleveland) has announced that he will retire in 2011. Before he goes, he has a few things he’d like to get off his chest. After already rankling the GOP in January with his comments on health care reform, Voinovich is stepping off the GOP platform on another issue: he firmly believes that the federal gas tax needs to be raised. He believes that a boost in the tax will help bring down the deficit and pay for a sizable transportation bill which has the capacity to create additional jobs.
Voinovich noted on his website that the federal gas tax hasn’t been touched since 1993. It currently sits at 18.4 cents a gallon. He says, about an increase, that boosting the tax “just a few cents could help create jobs, improve our infrastructure and better the climate.” He goes on to suggest that there are benefits to reducing car travel noting that “traffic congestion, for example, contributes almost 30 percent to our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Whoa. Increasing spending? Focusing on the environment? Raising taxes? What? Isn’t this terribly anti-Republican of him? Not especially. It’s anti-new-Republican of him. Voinovich tapped into his inner Reagan on this one, citing the former’s President’s comments that “Good tax policy decrees that, wherever possible, a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service.”
A boost in the federal gas tax is also not a new idea. It’s been kicked around before a number of times (clearly unsuccessfully) and Voinovich himself has been vocal about an increase since last year. So what gives?
Interestingly, Voinovich goes on to place the blame for not getting this done squarely on President Obama. He’s only half right. It’s true that Obama has not been supportive of the transportation bill but to suggest that the rest of Congress, including a sizable percentage of the GOP, would get behind a bill that would raise taxes on everyone is a bit disingenuous. Voinovich may be forgetting that he’s already announced his retirement: he doesn’t have to fight re-election ads which would surely spin a hike in the gas tax as raising taxes on the middle class when they could least afford it.
Still, you have to give Voinovich a lot of credit for saying what he thinks. That’s increasingly rare in Congress these days.