As Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government increased gas prices by 30 cents a gallon on New Year’s Day, the Mexican people took to the streets in protest, blocking roads, burning debris, blocking gasoline service stations and waving banners asking for Peña Neito to resign.
The gasolinazo – the gasoline price hike – prompted taxi cab drivers, truckers, agricultural workers and other irate citizens to block the main highways into Mexico City this past week.
“Outside one gas station in the centre of the captial, Manuel López, a mechanic, stood defiantly in front of the pumps. Ironically, López does not own a car – he sold it because of Mexico’s ongoing economic downturn – but he said the size and shock of the gasolinazo had sent him into the streets.
‘It’s an economic issue,’ said López, 24. ‘Salaries are not very good. If gasoline goes up, it provokes an inflation in the cost of the items we consume daily,’ he added, reciting a list of common complaints among Mexicans. ‘The first thing that gets hit are people’s pocketbooks.’”
As the gazolinazo takes center stage in Mexico, in their northern neighbor of California, several Democrat legislators have introduced their own gas tax proposal that could drive the current gasoline tax of 58.83 cents to 70.83 cents per gallon.
Like clockwork, Democrats introduce a handful of gas tax measures like Senate Bill 350 and oil severance, while the California Air Resources Board (a government agency appointed by Governor Jerry Brown) is looking at its own set of gas-hike proposals.
Since the Great Recession, California’s economy has been growing. Unemployment is down, more than two million have been created in a six-year span, but this recovery hasn’t been shared equally by all. As Dan Walters of The Sacramento Bee recently noted, “The technology-heavy San Francisco Bay Area has almost single-handedly lifted California’s economy and while other regions are better off than they were during the depths of the recession, their recoveries have been more sluggish. The question hanging over the state, therefore, is whether technology can continue to buoy its economy, or whether another recession is just waiting to happen.”
A 2015 report by United Ways of California, Struggling to Get By, noted, “One in three California households (31%) do not have sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. This is three times the proportion officially considered poor in California, according to the Federal Poverty Level that averages low cost-of-living states with those that have higher cost-of-living, such as California.
Households led by people of color are disproportionately likely to have incomes too low to make up the difference. State statistics show 51% of Latino households and 40% of African-American households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure. They are followed by Asian-American households (28%) and Caucasian households (20%).”
Even with the two million new jobs — with the largest gains made in low-paying restaurant, hotel and retail industries — and a slowly rebounding economy, will California Democrats follow the lead of Mexican President Enrique Peña Neito and create our own regressive gasolinazo to unfairly punish the poor?