Every now and then I find myself thinking “they can’t think anything more crappier than this” and so far I have always been proven wrong to that remark. There is always something worse.
Recently the minister of transportation has begun to publicly lobby a very “intriquing” idea on how to modernize taxes from one of the most taxed area in my country: transportation. We have taxes for owning a car. Taxes for insuring the car and taxes for using the car in the form of gasolene tax. Anne Berner was tasked with finding a modern solution due to increase in interest and viability for electric cars. Can’t tax that… yet. However it would seem her initial task was a smokescreen to introduce a plan that I can only describe with the word sinister.
Finland is heavily taxed territory. We are also a very large country in terms of people living per square. Public transportation is reliable only at the cities so the only reliable way to get from point A (home) to point B (work) is with a car. It has been estimated that over 8 billion is gathered in taxes from transportation related areas such as gasolene. Of this 8 billion which officially all of is meant to keep the roads and transportation infrastructure in good condition barely 2 is used in the aforementioned activity. Transportation is the cash cow that keeps on giving because people have no choise but to use it.
So about that new sinister plan.
Anne Berner believes that people should be taxed by what they use, meaning how much road they burn by traveling and a new tax based on that travel and only that (meaning other taxes would disappear). In theory this is a fine idea but so was communism until it was actually implemented. How does Anne decide to implement this feat? She wants to put black boxes on cars that transmit constantly the cars location and thus, the mileage. The tracking and billing of the mileage would be handled by a government owned company with varying degrees of payment plans (Anne uses phone plans as an analogy). From technical point of view the solution is absurd. From ethical point of view the solution is nothing short of Orwellian insanity.
For one, Finland already has an existing taxing method that makes sure people pay what they use. A large pecentage of gasoline prices per liter in Finland is tax. You pay more than you use. If Berners suggestion is fully implemented theoretically that means that gas prices goes down. However since gasolene industry is private and there are very few providers making cartels a reality, the only way that would happen is if government literally orders the gas companies to lower prices. The more likely end result is that gas companies lower the prices slightly and then gradually increase them again back to the original this time getting a lot marger profit margin.
Another troubling fact about the suggestion is the implementation through a company. It is a fact that a similar modernization was done to our electric grid. First it was government owned company and then that company was sold to mega corporations that really don’t pay that much taxes to Finland. Since everyone needs electricity we have privately owned government sanction monopoly (though a more technically accurate term would be IMHO racketeering ring) of one of our key infrastructure that was built with tax payers money. It’s no longer double dipping here. We got the whole hand in the jar. Since road is a limited resource eventually this too would be bought out by big companies who pay no taxes and no real competition since only one entity can own the road at the same time.
The solution would be an economic disaster. Yes new jobs would be created since we need people certified to install the black boxes, the infrastructure to monitor every car in the country (2 million at least) in real time etc. but all these new opportunities would go to a very few select providers, most who do not pay a single dime in taxes to the country they actually operate on. I say operate on because that is what these corporations are doing: carving my green little piece of heaven into nice slices for fat cats to feed on and let the little people have whatever scraps may be left behind. Capitalism unfortunately dictates that once you corner the market you squeeze and squeeze until the lemon is dry. This is not a matter of IF it happens. It is only a matter of time. Since prices won’t go down but instead up, peoples ability to consume products decrease. Also since the price of transporting goods increases that increase ripples out directly to product prices leaving consumers even less. Consumer won’t by product > store can’t get profit > store goes under > people lose jobs > ability to consume decreased > consumer won’t by product… and so on. Endless cycle until everyone runs out of money.
So far there have been mostly economical (ie. practical) arguments against the suggestion of our esteemed leader but here is a more ethical one: privacy. Giving the government the power to track every car with GPS accuracy means they will constantly be under scrutiny. Since the user can’t opt out from this like say with phones it essentially turns this taxmans tool into mass surveillance apparatus. Of course our esteemed leaders have said that it would never be used in that manner but I dare call bullshit on that. For the sake of argument let’s say that our current leaders ARE decent folk who keep their word (evidence exist to the contrary FYI). Do they expect to stay in power indefinetily? How can they assure that the next guy WON’T use this newfound power for nefarious reasons? People are losing their shit because Donald Trump became president overseas. Trump is the “next guy” you should be afraid of giving that kind of power. Also no system is unhackable giving cyber criminals a whole new sandbox to play in. Want to know if someone isn’t home so they can be robbed? Check car-tracking. Want to spy on your spouse? Easy peasy. Track a suspicious looking person without warrant or due process? Peace of cake.
By the way Berner has publicly announced that she won’t serve but one year in politics meaning she won’t have to bear ANY resposibility when shit hits the fan.
Finland is going in a hell and by the time we get there we can’t even afford the hand basket.