The push for congestion pricing is metastasizing across American communities. In more and more areas pricing mechanisms are segregating our communities by class. Historically Republicans and conservative have pushed for tolls, fees and charges that only the rich can pay for. Now it's liberals who are leading the way.
The main area of contention is road traffic and a laudable desire to reduce street congestion. New York rejected this ten years ago, but now it's back as Governor Andrew Cuomo seems ready to charge $8 to get into mid-town Manhattan.
But we've now gone beyond street congestion. Our crowded National Park system is about to double and triple peak usage fees at Yellowstone and Yosemite among others, and quadruple picnic area fees elsewhere. Some voices are being raised against this kind of class warfare: Theresa Pierno, of the National Parks Conservation Association, blasted the proposal. “We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places unaffordable for some families to visit.”
And your car can now go faster if you're rich. In the Washington DC area you gain access to an express lane on your way to work for a paltry $40 a day. That's about ten grand a year. It will be a real pleasure to see all those BMWs and Mercedes speeding past the Chevrolets. Tough noogies if you can't afford $10K: "No one has to pay a toll. As long as people are willing to pay, that is what will drive the tolling,” said Aubrey Layne, Virginia’s transportation secretary.
And remember net neutrality on the Internet? Gone. So now if you want your Netflix at an acceptable speed, pony up.
Pricing mechanisms used to be the wealthy folks' idea of how to be rid of those troublesome working people. Is that what's behind the New York proposals?
The best answer is to understand the historic blindness of the environmental movement to issues of class and race. The willingness to abandon historic economic principles for a favored social result isn't new. And the genuine and reasonable concern over street congestion has driven otherwise progressive pols like Cuomo to choose the elites over the masses.
It's a kind of economic and political blindness that has turned the elites of both parties against the real interests of the majority. The kind of thinking that cost Democrats the 2016 election.
Republican tax cuts for the wealthy are made of the same cloth as environmentalist fee increases in national parks or speed lanes. Those who can pay can get to work, or picnic in Yellowstone or drive to the 9/11 Memorial. Those who can't afford it can watch TV. At a slower speed.
It's going to get worse. What's next? Libraries? Schools? Emergency rooms? Don't kid yourself. It will happen.
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