Saturday, October 4, 2008

I Ride, You Pay -- Pay My Bosses!

We've all heard the latest scare stories -- or at least we males have -- that carrying a cell phone in one's pocket can zap the ol' walnuts, put the junk in a funk, etc.

Now there's considerable evidence that wearing a bicycle helmet inflicts severe brain damage. Maybe it's because of some styrene vapors oozing out of the foam. Maybe the Roc-Loc 4 system exudes lead vapors.

How else to explain the idiotic celebrations in the so-called cycling community because Congress shoe-horned the Bicycle Commuter Act into the pork-packed bailout bill for banks?

Here is what people are cheering:

The $700 billion (that is, enough money to make 700,000 new millionaires, or one new one for every 4.2 millionaires now in the U.S.) experiment in South American-style nationalization of the financial sector is a $20-a-month handout to employers whose employees ride bicycles to work.

No, that wasn't a typo. No tricky wording there. The free money goes to the employer, not the cyclist. Employers would then be encouraged to "pass along" that incentive to folks like me, who ride our bikes to work.

How? By providing bike parking. Yeah, that's one incentive the bill and its brain-shocked backers contemplate as acceptable. If my employer provides "storage" for the bike I ride to work two, three or four times per week, my employer can claim that is a benefit it provides me. I'd have to pay $40 a month to park my car, but the $200 million-per-year company I work for benevolently put a bike rack in the parking deck and lets me lock my bike to it for free. For that $40-per-month "perk" that I "enjoy," the billionaire family that owns my employer -- along with similar companies in bike-mad Portland, New Orleans, New York and elsewhere -- gets to take $240 a year in tax dollars from me and my neighbors. By the way: There's no real monitoring mechanism contemplated in the legislation, so Corporate America gets to be on the honor system as it sucks $10 million a year -- the estimated cost of this provision -- out of the Treasury. We all know how that works.

Naturally, this corporate socialism is not the intent. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an earnest, bowtie-wearing Democrat from Portland (of course), concocted the bike-commuter act to delight the League of American Bicyclists, and his hometown League of Sleeve-Tattoo-Wearing Nihilist Fixie Riders, and the League of SUV and Minivan Drivers Who Live in 3,500-Square-Foot McMansions and Feel Better About Themselves When They Say They're In Favor of Energy Conservation and Alternative Power Sources. He's been pushing it for something like seven years.

The intent, presumably, was to take that money from my corpulent, lazy, car-driving, junk-food-eating, sedentary neighbors and yours, and give it not to corporations, but to me. Me and you, if you commute by bike, and all those other needy people who need a federal handout to compensate them for donning $200 Showers Pass rain jackets, fastening $200 more in halo headlights onto their $1,000 commuter bikes and then stuffing their $25o rack-and-pannier arrangements with lunch and garments.

The theory is laudable. According to a 2007 bill that morphed into this $10 million-a-year employer subsidy, bicycle commuters annually save on average $1,825 in auto-related costs, reduce their carbon emissions by 128 pounds, conserve 145 gallons of gasoline, and avoid 50 hours of gridlock traffic.

I'd like to take credit for my share of that. Not sure I save "50 hours of gridlock traffic," since driving to work is still faster than biking. But I figure I save anywhere from $10 to $20 in gas alone each week, or 20-something bucks in overall vehicular wear and tear at 50 cents per mile. I once calculated, quite roughly, that my commuting knocks a couple pounds per week of VOCs and NOx out of the air. So I can laud myself a little.

If the government agrees that this is indeed a sound social, environmental and fiscal policy, it ought to put a line on my income-tax return for me to take the deduction.

Of course, an argumentive neighbor might say that the "$1,825 in auto-related costs" I save each year should be all the incentive I need to ride a bike to work. That and the likelihood that I'm saving myself thousands of dollars in future (or current) medical treatment by riding. (In fact, my neighbor might have a point in saying that I should have to pay the government because I ride to work. After all, chances are that I'll live several years longer than I would have if I'd kept driving to work while ramming doughnuts into my mouth, and therefore wil be a substantially bigger liability to Social Security, Medicare and society as a whole. I couldn't argue, but I could piss on my neighbor's grave someday.)

But instead of giving that money to me and other people who keep bike racks on their cars all the time so they can drive 20 miles on the weekend to an appropriate "multi-use trail" and ride to Akron, our friends in Congress think it better to let cigarette-smoking bean counters in the corporate accounting office decide who gets the dough, and how. Who will get it? Mostly millionaires.

Thank God we've incentivized bike commuting, eh?

The dildos who run "bike advocacy" lobbies in Washington and spend do-gooders' tax-deductible donations on silly "Bike-Friendly Cities" campaigns and political-campaign contributions (to Blumenauer, among others) call this progress. Rome wasn't built in a day, now was it? And unlike the Gingrich assholes who rammed detestible riders onto every appropriations bill that subsidized corporate fat cats and denuded social-service programs like napalm attacks on the underclass, the backers of this bill got it passed on its own merits as a stand-alone measure. Oh. Wait. Scratch that. Since it failed for seven straight years (including in a Dem-controlled
Congress), they jammed it into the bailout bill, along with billions of dollars in other pork. I almost forgot.

Must be that helmet-induced brain damage.

- JN


Anonymous said...

Nice attitude.

CycloneCross said...

I think you may have misinterpreted the legislation. See this link. "The $20 a month tax relief per bicycle commuting employee is to cover the cost of any employer reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee..."

"Bottom line: Employers could count as a deductible business expense a tax-free $20 monthly reimbursement to workers who bike to work."

I hope providing bicycle parking would not be considered 'reimbursement' of expenses incurred by the employee. I'll have to find the original legislation that was ammended to include commuting by bicycle to see how it defined reimbursement.

Anonymous said...

I read it, and he's right. It includes bike "storage" as an employer incentive/reimbursment.