Sunday, April 08, 2007

Racketolling

Two observations from this morning's Tennessean reveal the licit racket that is the toll road industry. First, a comment from a state legislator pushing for a toll connector from Sumner Co. to Davidson Co. exhibits the government's take in the racket:
[T]ransportation money expected to be lost from gas-tax revenues as people switch to more economical cars could be made up by toll money.
That is not only misleading (since tolls will never have the same direct impact as taxes), it also suggests that government is in league with corporations enabling our reliance on carbon-belching consumer goods for the sake of the bucks.

The anti-revenue mob will likely wrap their talons around that one simply because it fits their cash-cow stereotypes of "big government." In fact, the Tennessean goes back to the TN Tax Revolt's well in the same article.

Second, big corporate money becomes bigger corporate money in the tolling scheme:
One drawback of toll roads lies in the agreements with private toll road operators. The deals often carry provisions discouraging governments from improving free public roadways that could cut into toll profits.
I would not call that one drawback; I would call that one giant drawback. Toll roads do not merely siphon infrastructure revenues to pay for private luxuries. They also create legally binding contracts that destroy competition that the state might provide through public tax revenues in order to shelter their take (the dirty little myth of corporate enterprise is that it prefers competition even as it strives to eliminate competition).

The true winners in the tolling industry racket are the private companies that will take tolls away from building better highways, the state legislators who run interference for and patronize those companies, and the interest groups from both sides of the debate who get more publicity from the issue. The true losers of racketolling are regular citizens and the driving public.

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