Bloomberg: Gas tax “holiday” is a dumb idea…

Prices at the pump have already soared and will go even higher given the Russia-Ukraine mess (and Biden’s anti-oil policies).
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But, not to worry …

To offset the pump price increases, Team Biden is trying to get Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran to supply more oil.

Well, maybe strike Russia from that list now.

And, they’re floating a gamechanger: Waiving the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal tax on gasoline through the end of the year.

What’s the problem with doing that?

Bloomberg’s assessment: A gas tax holiday would do nothing to fight inflation but would do lasting harm to the federal budget.

Today, let’s drill down on the inflationary impact by considering the relevant “behavioral economics” — what are consumers likely to perceive and how are they’re likely to reacrt..

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Some Behavioral Economics

My take: Temporarily waiving the gas tax is a play “at the margins” that is likely to have a zero or negative effect in the market.

For openers, ask: What’s the impact of 18.4¢ per gallon on consumer’s wallets?

It is about 4.5% off a gallon of gas at current pump prices.

That’s sounds good.

But, it translates to about 2 bucks off at each pump stop … down from around $50 to just under $48.

Assume  a 16 gallon tank, refilled when it’s down to 1/4 of a tank: 75% x 16 = 12 gallons; 12 gal, x 18.4¢ = $2.20 … and assume gas at $4 per gallon at current market prices..

From a behavioral economics perspective, the driving number (<= pun intended) is the $48 … which is still a “piss-me-off” $20 per fill-up more than we were paying pre-Biden.

There’s little likelihood that consumers will start chanting; “Now you’re talking, Joe”.

So, let’s take another slant: What’s the annual impact on wallets?

Teaching point: In my pricing course, I professed that a way to “inflate” the appearance of a small number, simply multiply it by some number, e.g. go from cents per gallon,to dollars per fill-up to dollars per year.

Conversely, to make a big number seem small, simply “bite size it” by dividing it by some number, e.g. instead of $200, make it 4 easy-pay installments of $49.99 … or better yet: only pennies per day … way less than your monthly cable bill.

Let’s assume that an average person drives 12,000 miles each year.  At 20 MPG, that translates to 600 gallons per year.

At 18.4¢ per gallon, that’s a little over $100 in savings this year.

That’s barely enough to buy one of the two shoes in a new pair of Nike Lebron 19 basketball kicks.

The Nike LeBron 19 “Bred” to release this month at select retailers and Nike.com. The retail price tag is set at $200 USD. Source

Sure, we’d all rather get a “free” $100 from the government coffer (i.e. somebody else’s money), it doesn’t stack up as a life-style changing bonanza.

So, Joe, it may not buy you or your cronies  a lot of votes … or neutralize the perception that you haven’t got a clue.

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P.S. What if the above logic is wrong and people do sense that temporarily waiving the 18.4¢ per gallon gas tax is a meaningful price change?

What’s the likely outcome?

Based on past history, people are likely drive more and buy more gas … pushing the pump prices back up … possible negating the entire tax cut.

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To be continued…

One Response to “Bloomberg: Gas tax “holiday” is a dumb idea…”

  1. Worth Reading: Putin’s motivations and Biden’s responses. | The Homa Files Says:

    […] Bloomberg: Gas tax “holiday” is a dumb idea… Prices at the pump have already soared and will go even higher given the Russia-Ukraine mess (and Biden’s anti-oil policies). […]

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