Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lies, lies and damn lies

In 2007 Sweden got it's first toll roads, also known as the congestion tax, with a web of cameras encircling the city of Stockholm, photographing every car entering and exiting the city. It was a dark day for the protection of personal privacy, and it was the day that Sweden definitly lost it's socialist democratic profile (after all, what's socialist about a flat rate tax that obviously hits people with lower income way harder than people with high income?).

The city council, led by the so-called "Alliance" (consisting of the parties Moderaterna, Folkpartiet, Kristdemokraterna and Centerpartiet) appeared to be opposed to this tax when the former city council imposed it. Of course this was all just a bid for votes, a big fat lie.

Today this city council proposes not only to uphold this economical Berlin wall encircling Stockholm, but they want to raise the toll rate and build new road tolls on, surprise surprise, the only north-south connection available in this city (well, except from driving through the city, in which case you'll have to pay the road tolls anyway), Essingeleden. Incidently this is also a potential treasure chest for these unscrupulous politicians, with over 160.000 cars passing by every day (*15 = 2.400.000 SEK).

Of course the reason for this insanity might be considered good: It will help pay for important investments to the city's infrastructure. But wait a second...isn't this what we pay taxes for (and the reason why Sweden has one of the highest income taxes in the world)? Isn't that a bit more just, when people actually pay their taxes according to their wealth and income, and not according to where they have to drive to get to kindergarden, work and the grocery store? After all, these politicians claim that the infrastructure around Stockholm is important for the whole country, so why should local motorists who "live in the wrong place" pay through their nose for something that is clearly government business? Oh, and why on earth should a motorist driving on Essingeleden have to pay road tolls to finance a public transportation in the form of a street car from Solna to Alvik? This is clearly a matter for the city, municipality or county - not the motorist!

These road tolls are meant to finance all these projects for 12 years, but who really believes they will be removed after this time? You only have to look to Norway to find the answer to that. Never. Instead, the toll charge will be raised again and again, pushing people's limits, and new toll booths will be built here and there, just to keep the income increasing. And of course, the free passage on holidays, weekends and weeknights will soon just be a distant memory. That'll probably be the first to go, if Norway is used as a standard.

Road tolls were probably a good idea in the middle ages, when rich merchants had to pay to enter a city and sell their goods. Well, times have changed quite a bit since then, and we have come up with much more accurate and social ways of getting those tax kronor.

Even though I'm not allowed to vote in the general elections, or the EU elections, I can still vote for city council. And believe me, no political party with road tolls on their agenda will get my vote.

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