Gasoline Taxes – The Epitome of Forced Taxation and Government’s Broken Promises

Exclamation MarkI do not care that Alaska has not increased its gasoline taxes in 50-years.  Frankly, the fact that the Federal Government has gone 27.4 years without increasing the Federal Fuel Taxes is not a problem.  Nor that the Federal Government has to either get the current taxes renewed, or the Federal Gas Tax goes to $0.042 a gallon is not a tragedy, but a good thing.  Gas taxes are not the problem; the problem is that the fuel taxes, excise taxes, surcharges, and fees built into a gallon of gas that equals more than $1.00 per gallon, are never prioritized to the infrastructure projects the tax was collected initially to pay for!

IronyI find the following ironic; the Federal Gasoline Excise Tax is actually two taxes combined.  $0.01 per gallon is paid as the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fee.  Why is this ironic; because the government LUSTs after all types of money to misappropriate.  Before creating acronyms, one would think that the government would consider how much of a joke those acronyms will make.  One of the seven deadly sins that are constantly causing scandals for politicians, LUST!  Yes, I find this tax acronym very ironic and applicable to the discussion on why the roads and other infrastructure is rated as a C- and falling.  I find LUST very appropriate to the discussion on the misappropriation of funds and how the government wants to increase taxes to pay for something already well funded but where the money is consistently diverted.

QuestionPlease note that each state will have additional taxes, fees, surcharges, and tax projects built into the cost of a gallon of gas or diesel, aviation, or propane.  Fuel taxes are a tax scheme that seems to always pay for anything but roads, bridges, and infrastructure.  Some basic facts regarding gas taxes:

      1. The average state gas tax is $0.3006 per gallon of gas.
      2. The Federal Government gets $0.184 per gallon of gas.
      3. States have added other fees to a gallon of gas, including:
          • Environmental
          • Underground storage (payable even if the tanks are above ground)
          • Inspection fees
          • Certification and other weights and measurement fees
      4. If your state taxes Ethanol, your gas taxes include the Ethanol tax, as well as a fuel tax.
      5. All fuels are hit with taxes, and some of those taxes are disproportionately assigned to heavier vehicles. For example, diesel has a different formula for taxes due to the trucking industry using roads and bridges more; at least, this is the excuse used to tax diesel differently.

Gas Tax Revenue – Poor Roads and Infrastructure

Since I was a kid in Maine, who closely observed the gas tax debate, I have wondered the same question.  “Why are the roads so poor if the government is collecting all these taxes on gasoline?”  Now, keep in mind the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Taxes are the price of civilization.”  Meaning that to “enjoy” the pleasure of a free society, the government will levy taxes.  But, the money collected does not have to go for what the tax was intended to pay.  Hence the broken promises of gasoline taxes.

Plato 2Fuel taxes are used for a myriad of uses, and the priority is all confused about how to spend fuel taxes:

        1. Schools
        2. Pay down the National Debt
        3. Mass Transit
        4. Cleaning up underground fuel leaks
        5. Law Enforcement
        6. Environmental Protection
        7. Pension Shortfalls
        8. State Debts
        9. Federal Highway Trust Fund Deficits of all types
        10. Enforcement Costs, including weights and measurement certification
        11. Roads
        12. Bridges

Now, do not forget the other obstacle in fixing roads and bridges, the labor costs, especially if the workers are unionized.  The government bidding processes for projects, especially in all forms of construction, are obscenely complicated, which increases costs long before a shovel hits the dirt.  If unions are involved, the time for the project and expenses will, at a minimum, double before the project completes, creating deficit spending.  I am not cynical here; I have witnessed this occur too often not to admit the truth.

Working DollarChris LeDoux sings a song, “Working Man’s Dollar,” which tells the story and details the difference between a working man’s dollar and the dollar in other places.  The fuel tax was first adopted in Oregon, and the proceeds were earmarked only for fixing, maintaining, and building roads, bridges, and other travel infrastructures, like tunnels.  Except, the money never is prioritized to the failing roads, bridges, and infrastructure costs.  The working man’s dollar, collected through forced taxation, is not respected by the government authorized through the ballot box to allocate spending.

I was in Maricopa County when a stadium was pitched to the residents to be located in Scottsdale.  A gas tax hike was proposed as part of an overall tax plan to pay for the stadium.  I asked, “If the stadium was worth the investment, why not just sell bonds?”  I never got an answer.  Not every citizen was interested in the stadium, not all citizens were going to benefit from the stadium, but every citizen was being asked to help pay for a stadium.  The stadium in that election failed, but the ideas did not die; a new location was proposed, and the voters there accepted the stadium’s tax hikes.  Want a surprising non-surprise, the stadium is built, but the taxes have never gone away, including property, sales, and fuel taxes!  Where is that money going?

Bait & SwitchNow, the Federal Government has a bunch of fuel taxes and surcharges (taxes called a fee) about to expire.  The question every voter in America needs to ask themselves is this, “Did the government properly use the funds dedicated to infrastructure?”  If so, then the fuel taxes should continue at the Federal level.  If not, then the fuel taxes should cease, for the government refuses to spend money according to the purpose it was collected.  Every single state in the union should be asking the same question and answering accordingly.

I lived in Albuquerque, NM., for several years.  To get potholes fixed, you had to ruin your car in an accident involving the street, then sue the city, county, state, whatever for the insurance costs.  Only then was that particular patch of road deemed important enough to repair.  There are bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, car-destroying potholes all over Albuquerque.  These never get fixed because the city has been too busy dumping tax money into a rapid transit project that is barely used, overly expensive, and desperately not desired by the taxpaying citizens.  They had “ART” (Albuquerque Rapid Transit) crammed down their throats by a judge.  ART has been a disgrace from Day 1.  Yet, money keeps pouring into ART instead of the many roads, bridges, overpasses, and other infrastructure that desperately needs repair.  A friend of mine hit a pothole, doing 35mph, dented his rim almost 2”, ruined his front alignment, and cost him a considerable sum.  That pothole is still there, still causing dents, still eating tires, and the city cannot fix it, the state will not fix it, the county was supposed to fix it, the Indian reservation owns it, and the federal government makes the pothole worse every day by traffic of federal employees going to work.

Tax BurdenHence the reason why fuel taxes are considered a tax scheme!  If you pass the buck enough, nothing gets done, and the money collected can be used in other projects while responsibility is determined.  Except, there is no money to fix the problem when the responsibility is determined, and the wheel just keeps spinning around.  Are you sick and tired of the games politicians play, yet?  Now, imagine your electric bill going up to pay for the fuel taxes not paid for by electric car owners, and tell me about proper government action and accountability.  My friend could not sue because responsibility cannot be determined; his insurance would not pay for the damages because the road damaged his vehicle; guess who was out almost $10,000.

Tax Scheme 2Some states are changing how the gasoline and other fuel taxes, including electricity due to the rise in electric vehicles on the road, are being priced and collected.  However, the problem is not the tax; it’s the fact that the tax never pays for what it was intended to when collected.  Some states got an increase in fuel taxes through their state legislatures this year.  Other states and the Federal Government are taking fuel taxes up in the coming months or the next legislating session.  But, not a single politician, anywhere in America, has stepped up to state the obvious, the current taxes collected are sufficient to pay for roads and bridges; we have to allocate more of the current money collected to roads and bridges.

Broken Promises – Broken Roads and Bridges

Question 3Is the problem apparent?  How many of your state taxes, lotteries, and other fees are supposed to pay for education?  Yet, education always seems never to have enough money.  How many taxes and fees go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation, all of which are supposed to pay for infrastructure, e.g., roads, tunnels, bridges, overpasses, highways, etc.?  How much is the pension crisis costing your state, driving taxes and fees upwards, but the money never is delivered to pay down and lessen the pension crisis?

I repeat, only for emphasis, “America does NOT have a cash collection problem; it has a spending problem.”  At all levels of government, the elected officials are acting worse than drunken sailors on a seven-day binge, and this behavior needs to cease!  We cannot spend our way out of the hole dug through deficit spending!  The answer is not allowing the government to steal more money from our pockets, but to demand the money taken is used for the purposes intended!

Tax SchemeWe must tie political decisions to misappropriate funds to the legislators and executives making the decisions.  Thus, holding accountable the people who are being poor managers of the people’s money.  More importantly, when re-election decisions are made, the media, the influencers, and the political parties need to report this information.  Being able to hide funding shenanigans and criminal activities should never occur; businesses cannot do this, the government should not be able to do this.  Audits, investigations, and transparency are critical to putting the right people out of office and into prison, and keeping the honest and faithful stewards in office and working.

Knowledge Check!The size of government must shrink to an affordable level, from the city to the Federal; every government body in America, including those non-Government agencies acting like government agencies (USPS), need to be forced onto a diet of less money!  There is no excuse for the government to be the size it has become.  There is no excuse why we, the owners of the government, cannot demand government shrink, become efficient, and keep the promises made regarding money collected, used appropriately, and ended at the time promised.

Angry Wet ChickenAs sure as carts to horses and ducks to water, a Federal tax, fee, or surcharge, will be found shortly on your electric bill to cover the costs of electric vehicles on the roads.  When the Federal government does this, the state, county, and city will jump in with both feet, claiming “fairness” and “equality” so everyone is “paying their fair share” of the costs for infrastructure.  It doesn’t matter that you do not own an electric vehicle; the government will help you finance one through increased taxes and misappropriated fees collected.  Just like the “Obama Phone” scheme being abused by many people and paid for by a small minority.  Broken promises indeed!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: QT and LHI – Let’s Talk Customer Service

Thank you!For a long time, I have deeply respected QuickTrip (QT).  Their customer service is of such outstanding quality; even when their fuel is more expensive, I still prefer shopping at QT.  The people go out of their way to help you have a fantastic customer experience.  I have never had a rude employee, a poor customer interaction, or left with an unresolved problem.  I struggle with a cane and neurological issues and have had doors held open for me; cashiers have brought me my change, always a good experience at QT.  Thank you!

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Department of Motor Vehicles, and they are joined by Logistics Health Incorporated (LHI).  I have had my share of detestable customer service experiences; I am a customer service subject matter expert and have been regularly published on customer service topics.  When I rate LHI as competing for the DMV for the worst possible customer service provider, LHI might even have the DMV shaded!Angry Wet Chicken

16 April 2021 – I enter LHI at 5333 N 7th St, Phoenix location; I am 35-minutes early to a 1200 appointment.  On 25 March 2021, the Gov. of Arizona stopped enforcing mandatory masking.  As a person with a documented medical condition where I struggle to breathe enough volume per breath and cannot physically wear a mask, I did not wear a mask to this appointment.  I was rudely asked to wear a mask by the receptionist.  I showed her my Dr.’s note about having breathing problems where I cannot wear a mask.  The receptionist, after making considerable noise, canceled my appointment as a no-show.  Guess who is not going to be paid for my mileage to and from the facility.

I went to my car, called LHI Customer Service number 866-933-8387; the representative tried calling the facility.  After several hold sessions, she told me she would find me a provider who would work with me on the mask issue to complete the VA Contracted Compensation and Pension Appointment.  I never heard back from this representative.

Angry Wet Chicken 27-10 days later, I receive a call to reschedule an appointment spending more than 2 hours talking to the representative, who finally schedules me an appointment with another non-LHI provider in Phoenix for 10 May 2021.  I received a call from that provider confirming I have an appointment.  Yet, a bait and switch occurred, and my appointment was then rescheduled for the same provider, same LHI facility, and I attended this appointment.

0750, 10 May 2021 – I arrive early for the 0800 appointments.  The receptionist is belligerent when I walk through the door about me not being seen without a mask.  She further stipulated that since I can talk, I can wear a mask, and nothing I say will change that “medical opinion.”  She eventually tells me to call customer service and have them call her to relate treatment instructions.  She refused me a supervisor and then proceeded to make a bunch of calls, often holding her iPhone in one hand and the office phone in another.

While on the phone with Emily at LHI, at 33:35, into my call with the LHI customer service center, the Phoenix Police arrive.  The receptionist had called 911 and claimed, “I have a disruptive patient, who refuses to follow directions, is swearing, and throwing things, and refuses to leave the building.”  Officer Pacheco Badge #11039, Report # 21-725905, and his partner arrive, speak with the receptionist, who repeats her claim, then they talk to me.Apathy

I report I have not used swear words.  I have not thrown anything.  I have not been told to vacate the premises.  I have a medical condition that precludes me from wearing a mask, and I cannot physically wear a mask.  I show the officers my Dr.’s note to this effect.  The officer then turns to another patient who happened to have come in after me, and he confirms to the officer everything I said.  The worst language that the receptionist can truthfully claim that was used at her was “belligerent” and “snowflake.”  I will own the fact I called her belligerent and a snowflake.

Angry Grizzly BearThe officers go back to the receptionist, who two other people have now joined, names unknown, wearing scrubs presumably from the treatment rooms in the back.  They then make several calls.  Then one of the people asks if I can wear a mask but not over my nose.  I explain it is a breathing volume problem I have, and any mask hinders my volume of air per breath and makes breathing difficult.  The people behind the desk are seriously unhappy that my breathing problem does not have a name, a disease, or some identifying characteristic: the receptionist, the officers, and the people from the back return to a hushed conversation.  I am still on the phone with Emily and on hold while Emily is trying to contact the site.quote-mans-inhumanity

Finally, a decision is made, would I wear a face shield.  I claimed I have offered to wear a face shield twice and been told, face mask or nothing by the receptionist.  A nurse practitioner finally agrees if I wear a face shield, she will see me.  She then spent the next two hours complaining about me being an hour late to the appointment, her “very full schedule,” and how we had to “get this done quickly.”

Then, the nurse practitioner proceeds to lecture me twice about getting the vaccination for COVID-19 and how if I had the vaccination, they would be more comfortable with me not wearing a mask.  At no time, in the first or second interactions with the receptionist, did anyone ask me if I had received the vaccination.  I then finally left with a lecture about not being “anti-vax.” How she had no symptoms or post-injection problems, and how since I already have breathing problems, my comorbidity meant I should be seriously considering getting the vaccine.VA 3

I am not “Anti-Vax!”  I want my questions answered before I get the vaccine.  I want truthful information from peer-reviewed resources that I can reference and discuss with my primary care provider, neurologist, podiatrist, and other specialists who help me manage my health.  I want to know about drug interactions and the vaccine.  I need to know how this will affect diabetes because the experiences of Indians who are diabetic have been horrible!

I have no idea if the nurse practitioner did her job or just wasted my time.  What I do know is that LHI is about 100% useless in their customer service!  Failure to keep promises is the number one reason why trust is built or shattered.  Failure to carry through with what you promise is the second most common reason why trust is Bird of Preydestroyed in customer service.  Face-to-face providers need to be looking for solutions, not actively looking to inconvenience the customer.  100% of the medical profession IS customer service.  How the provider approaches the customer (patient) is the number one factor in how that patient will respond to treatment.

LHI, if you decide to respond, I will indeed include your response in a follow-on article.  However, at this moment, you have scored with the DMV as the worst possible example of customer service, and I hope you learn fast to care for the patient better!  I am fed up with your treatment, and change is mandatory; immediately!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Government Customer Service

Duty 3As a subject matter expert on customer service, as a professional customer service provider, and as a concerned American, I have to state for the record, the government’s abuse of the taxpaying customer is beyond atrocious, ridiculous, and craven!  I am sick to death of being treated like cat vomit; when I seek customer support from the government, I pay such incredible sums to fund.  Worse, I am fed up with the bureaucratic mindset that places the customer in the wrong, the customer as a pain, and the customer as a nuisance to be endured instead of assisted professionally.

ProblemsMy local Post Office here in Phoenix was visited yesterday (03 March 2021).  The Post Office does not deliver packages to the apartment complex we live in, so the standard procedure is for the USPS delivery person (mailman) to place a card notifying the customer of a package on a 10-day hold in the customer’s mailbox.  Since we moved in, we have not gotten these indicators, and Monday, my wife was notified a package she needs was returned by USPS.  It was delivered Monday to the Post Office and returned to sender as “customer refused delivery” the same day.

I went to the Post Office seeking answers.  The counter-working postal representative was the epitome of rude, obnoxious, and downright unfriendly.  It took more than an hour for a supervisor to arrive, and upon discussing the problem, I was told, “Lots of your neighbors have been complaining about this issue.”  Are you kidding me?!?!?!  You have two 500+ Apartment complexes across the street from each other, multiple people from both complexes are complaining about package delivery failures, and with a smile, you can tell me this is a known issue.

Theres moreAsk yourself the following question, if you had upwards of 100 customers complaining about your work, how long would you remain employed?  Frankly, I am still stunned 24+ hours after the interaction with this supervisor.  My visit was the sixth time I had been to the Post Office complaining about not getting package notifications and having trouble with packages sitting around the post office taking up space.  One of these visits included speaking to the Post Office’s head, general, whatever, the top person in charge of a local post office is titled.  Still, the employee has maintained their job, kept the same route, and the customers continue to be abused.

After I wrote a formal complaint, I was assured that action would be taken, and the employee talked to about this oversight in their duties.  Seriously, that was exactly what the supervisor said, “the employee will be talked to.”  I understand the human resources processes, understand and have designed human resource processes, and possess a Doctor of Psychology title specializing in industrial and organizational psychology.  But, I do not know how 100+ complaints can arrive at the post office weekly, and the same mailman is only on their verbal reprimand for failure to perform their duties.  We have been complaining about this issue for a year now, and in speaking with several neighbors, they have been complaining for longer than a year about this failure.  I have some doubts that this issue will be resolved, ever!

Detective 4But hey, the Post Office is only one of the government agencies exhibiting a race to the bottom where customer abuse and customer disservice are concerned.  The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a state-run agency, is always in this race, and they take hostile customer service to new heights, or depths, depending upon how you look at their performance.  The last visit to the DMV ended with screaming for several minutes in my car before possessing the proper mindset to drive away safely.  The DMV is comparable to a dentist drilling before anesthesia starts and doing a poor job on an infected tooth; you just know you will have a bad day when a visit to the DMV is scheduled!

Yet, in discussing the race to the bottom, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is also a constant competitor in asinine customer service practices, customer abuse, and inept inertia.  I do not think the VA could even get bureaucratic inertia correct if someone had not taught them how.  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) investigated a surgical supply program for abuses and found:

VA controls were not sufficient to ensure VA medical facility staff accurately reviewed, verified, or certified distribution fee invoices for the program. VA also did not ensure staff at medical facilities accurately established and applied the on-site representative rates and paid fees based on annual facility purchases. The pricing schedule establishes fee rates for on-site representatives based on annual facility purchase amounts.”

The amount of money involved is staggering ($4.6 Billion). The fact that the VA cannot correctly oversee a supply program, check invoices, monitor stock levels, and pay invoices properly does not bode well for integrity in customer service.

LinkedIn VA ImageThe VA is to be congratulated, the colonoscope, which is used on multiple patients for a colonoscopy, is being cleaned properly and to standard, which means that infections from one patient are less likely to occur in another patient transferred from the colonoscope.  However, the training program, certification program, and training documentation remain under considerable scrutiny for continual failure, as discovered by a VA-OIG investigation of 10 different clinics!  Training, certification of training, and documenting and tracking training are internal customer service actions that the entire VA continues to fail.  Whoever is in charge of adult education and training at the VA is not performing their jobs, and this is witnessed every couple of weeks in the VA-OIG investigation results across the entire VA.  Designed incompetence leading to customer service failures, absolutely ridiculous!

I-CareThe VA-OIG conducted a lengthy investigation at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Chicago VA Regional Benefits office in Illinois.

The OIG found claims processors did not properly correct administrative errors in 88 percent of cases reviewed. Errors resulted in improper underpayments of about $59,100 to six veterans, improper overpayments of $18,900 to two veterans, and $5,900 in debts VA had inappropriately collected from eight veterans through January 2020.”

Revisiting the Post Office example above, if you had an 88% error rate in your job, how long would you expect to keep your job?  Training and certification of claims processing personnel remains a failure of internal customer service and is mentioned in every VBA investigation by the VA-OIG.  As a point of fact, the failures of training and training certification were recently cited as a significant deficiency, where in 2018, no certification and training occurred due to internal technical problems with the intranet.  Yet, even with all this evidence that training is failing, certification is not occurring, and claims processors continue to abuse veterans through clerical, system, procedural, and process errors on claims, they maintain their positions.  Cited in this latest VBA investigation was the claims processors’ continual failure to communicate with the veteran.

Boris & NatashaConsider the following analogy.  A 100% disabled veteran gets paid once a month and budgets those monies very carefully to last the entire month.  A claims decision is made, and without any communication for why, the amount the veteran is expecting to live is cut in half.  The veteran is then responsible for wading through the various call centers to find why, how the decisions were made, and what to do, which takes time, lots, and lots of time on the phone.  While bills go unpaid, food goes unpurchased, financial difficulties mount, and correcting the situation takes more time.  Sure, the VA will pay back pay, but that is never sufficient to cover all the accruing costs and losses experienced.

Hostile customer service by the government is the most inexcusable example of customer disservice imaginable.  Why; because there is no competitor to move your business.  There are no pathways for holding customer service representatives accountable when even talking to a supervisor is not worth the time and effort.  I spent four hours on the phone chasing a claims processing error; at one point, I finally got so mad I demanded a supervisor.  I waited on hold for just under 120-minutes for the supervisor, who said had I worked better with the agent, I would not have had to wait, and the problem could have been resolved, as their opening statement!

Survived the VABy this time, I had worked with four separate agents who were confused or refused the call by hanging up.  I had been sworn at, I had been told I was a liar, and I was told my office could not handle your request.  Each call required anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes of hold time waiting for an agent.  As the supervisor reviewed the problem, they discovered that their agents could not have handled the situation, and a specialist was required.  But, I never got an apology from the supervisor for the waste of my time, the issues experienced with previous agents, nor the loss of my time and resources it took to handle the problem.

Gadsden FlagGovernment employees beware; how you treat customers is a problem, and you need to be held to task for your insolence, depravity, ineptitude, inertia, and uncaring attitudes!  When discussing the BS of government, the customer service issue is the most egregious.  I will call you out publicly every time you abuse a customer.  I am done being abused!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.