As the US Senate passed a $1.2 Trillion infrastructure bill, it made sure to include over $125 million in grants for state and local governments to begin testing programs to track the movements of every driver in the US and charge them a fee for total miles driven.
Congress already crushes US workers with cuts to unemployment, an expiring eviction moratorium, stagnant wages and shorted stimulus payments. They can ill-afford to shoulder another burden from their rulers’ failed policies. Oregon implemented a version of this tax in 2018, called a VMT, and charges drivers 1.8 cents per mile. That’s in addition to 18.4 cents per gallon charged at the pump.
As wildfires rage across the West Coast, heralding a change in climate produced by US pollution, the VMT removes incentives to curb emissions from driving electric and dodging the tax at the pump. Its attempt to encourage more public transportation is a farce. Most US cities lack the infrastructure outside wealthier neighborhoods.
Due to a lack of reliable public transit, this hurts people with long commutes to work and gig economy drivers the most. This 2019 AAA study indicates US workers drive time has increased by 20 minutes per week in the past five years, likely due to those gigs.
The VMT’s financial burden is felt by the driver, not the company making them drive so they can pay rent.
Another insidious feature of the proposal pairs well with Biden’s decision to end USDA produce distribution during the pre-Delta Covid spike. It is an attack on mutual aid organizations, some of whom made national news saving frozen Texans last winter. Comrade Birb correspondents spoke with members of the Michigan Mutual Aid Coalition (MIMAC) to learn how this harms direct aid efforts.
The Work at Ground Level
MIMAC’s system involves partnering with other 501c3 organizations like Food Rescue US to obtain fresh groceries corporations were planning to trash. Then, volunteers assemble the rescued food and other donated items into weekly care packages delivered to homebound and immunocompromised residents. They also distribute cleaning supplies and PPE aided by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief to combat Covid and basement mold. The latter is due to Detroit Water and Sewage Department failing its residents by having sewage spewed into their homes during heavy rain.
The USDA produce box cancellation made the job even more difficult.
“Requiring the poor to pay these taxes and pay the price for [Biden admin]’s big ideas is just another way to prove they don’t care what’s going on with workers. Like when they cancelled the USDA food program boxes. Many groups have to drive extra miles to obtain the food that serves their populations,” – Siren, MIMAC founder.
Volunteers used to gather in one central location to source food. Now the move forces them to drive all across Metro Detroit to find participating grocers. Thanks to donations to MIMAC’s Venmo (@MI-MAC), they can currently reimburse supply and delivery drivers. Will that be sustainable if Oregon’s current VMT is directly implemented?
The Math Behind the VMT
A supply driver sourcing food can drive from Clinton Twp. to MIMAC’s cold storage in Detroit three times a week. The 50 mile round trip distance is typical for most supply drivers, and $1 per trip (50 miles round trip x $0.02/mile) is a reasonable benchmark. Accounting for all general supply runs it’s an additional $9 per week. Delivery distances are about the same, tack on another $10 for a week. The food share crew has to drive from the suburbs to downtown, too, adding another $4. All told, MIMAC would pay an additional $23 per week and roughly $100 per month with the VMT. All to serve communities that the government imposing the tax chose to ignore.
MIMAC’s monthly budget rarely exceeds three figures, and public transportation isn’t an option in Metro Detroit. The VMT would saddle them with an extra 10% to their monthly budget just to do their job.
“This solution is punishment to anyone caught by the undertow of the government’s decades long public urination on the electric car industry. It rewards the wealthy…while punishing the poor with a tax intended to make up for decades of [expletive] governing, ignored science, and a pedestalled oil industry.” – Andre, MIMAC member.
As the United States continues to turn its back on the people, the people must make due for themselves. To help MIMAC with personal donations, please send to their Venmo (@MI-MAC). If you are a business and wish to contribute larger monetary donations for a tax write-off, please inquire at [email protected].