A mileage tax on drivers? Not so fast.
Regarding the Feb. 27 editorial, "A road map to better US roads": The editorial is correct in that the United States is not funding its road infrastructure enough and governments are not transparent about it. These are both simple problems to resolve. Pass funding bills that fund roads adequately from the general budget (state, local, and national) and call it what it is.
However, the idea of a vehicle mileage tax (VMT) is a bad one. The idea that roads should or can be paid for by those who use them suggests that by not driving or driving less you are not benefiting from them. That is completely wrong.
Roads provide access of all kinds – police, fire, and medical services, for example. Furthermore, virtually every item you purchase has traveled over a road at some point.
The simple fact is that one of the fundamentals for our economic success and development as a nation has been our ability to move about freely. This has provided us with greater benefit than we can ever realistically calculate. To believe that roads are of value only to those who choose to use them in a car is a gross underestimation and misunderstanding.
Creating a VMT would result in rewarding people who purchase gas-guzzling vehicles and punishing those who don't. That will not help reduce consumption. The people who cause greater damage to road surfaces drive heavy, less-efficient vehicles. With a VMT, they wouldn't pay for their share of road damage in taxation. This would shift the burden to the drivers of more efficient vehicles. It would also result in more pollution.
If we really want to have the true costs of cars and the road system covered there is an easy way to do it. Total all the costs of the road system, both federally and locally. These costs would have to include new construction, maintenance, police, and other safety needs. Then divide this number by the number of gallons anticipated to be used. There you have it: the necessary tax per gallon required to fund our needs.
When it comes to religion, be sensitive
In regard to the Feb. 26 article, "Some British Christians feel oppressed in the public square": I think that letter writer Jane Bullard has misunderstood the context of my comments to author Mark Rice-Oxley.
When I asked, "How would a Christian feel if, for example, a nurse offered them an Islamic prayer?" I was not saying we should be unresponsive to each other. I was explaining that while some people object to Christian staff being asked not to proselytize in places like hospitals, they would often be the first to complain if someone tried to push another faith at them.
The issue is not openness. It's sensitivity and mutual respect.
Let elephants live in parks
Regarding the Feb. 26 article, "In the hands of babes: Thai elephants' future": When I was a child in Thailand, we learned of the elephant's place in Thailand's history. We were told the elephant was our national symbol, a proud representation of the monarchs and the Thai people. How far we have reduced these magnificent animals by forcing them to walk city streets for the amusement of tourists.
Instead of dodging traffic on congested streets and breathing in vehicle exhaust all day, elephants must be placed in sanctuaries and protected parks, where they can live out their lives with other elephants in safety and peace.
Surely our national treasure deserves no less.