As we noted last year, the federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants a “black box” in all new cars and light trucks to track speed, braking, seatbelt use and such before a car makes impact in a crash. The black boxes can’t be disabled and raise alarms that government could easily misuse the data. Government now wants a black box that would track drivers’ miles and possibly where they drive. Then they would use that information to draw up a tax bill, with the funding supposedly going to fix roads.
The Highway Trust Fund is broke, supposedly because Americans buy less gasoline, cars are more efficient, and the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon hasn’t gone up in 20 years. Politicians hesitate to hike that tax, and they see the black box as a better way. Hasan Ikrata of the Southern California Association of Governments told reporters that “This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do.”
Urban liberals love the plan and have drawn support from the Reason Foundation. Vice president of policy Adrian Moore is on record that “This is not just a tax going into a black hole. People are paying more directly into what they are getting.” On the other hand, Tea Party types and the ACLU believe the plan is a threat to privacy. That concern would seem to be legitimate.
The National Security Agency has been reading Americans’ email and listening in on their phone calls. But despite the revelations, government itself is not more transparent. According to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, we are seeing a “high level of opacity” in an administration that promised “an unprecedented level of openness in government.” Government secrecy has increased, and efforts to promote accountability have been blocked. The Obama administration did not care for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, and Obamacare, administered by the IRS, represents a further informational intrusion.
These are hardly the conditions for yet another federal snitch surge. The greater need is for some sort of device to monitor government snooping and the way politicians waste taxpayer dollars. Perhaps that could start by restricting the black box to government vehicles.