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News + PoliticsEconomyI don't want Gavin Newsom's $400 gift card

I don’t want Gavin Newsom’s $400 gift card

If he sends me one, I'm sending it to the Coalition on Homelessness. But it's still a terrible idea.

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I don’t need a $400 gift card from the state to pay for gas.

I hardly ever drive; I walk, ride my bike, take the bus and BART.

No judgment here: I know other people aren’t as lucky, and they live in areas where you can’t walk or ride and there’s not good transit, or they aren’t as mobile, or they have to get to work at hours that aren’t transit-convenient, and a lot of those people are lower-income workers.

They need help, not just with gas but with the impact of corporate greed that is driving higher prices for basic goods all over the country.

But Newsom wants to send money to every registered vehicle owner, no matter how much money they have or make.

Thanks, Gav, but this is a not a good economic plan.

Me? If I use ten gallons of gas over three months, it’s unusual. Looking at gas prices from Feb. 2021 and Feb. 2022, I’d be spending an extra $12.

The point is, I’m not suffering from high gas prices, or even that much from inflation, since I don’t spend much these days. (On the other hand, a bit of inflation makes my mortgage less expensive, since I’m paying it off at a fixed rate that is now lower than the inflation rate. This is the dirty secret of inflation—overall, it helps net debtors and hurts net lenders.)

I’m very, very far from the 1 percent. Which means I can say, for a pretty solid fact, that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need $400 for gas either, for whatever fancy car he drives. The 15,000 people in California who have more than $50 million in net worth don’t need a $400 gift card (although for most of them, it would be $800, since they all have at least two cars).

The point is this is the exact opposite of a progressive tax; it’s a regressive refund. And it’s going to cost the state billions that ought to be used for public transit and public education and non-market housing.

From CalMatters:

Giving more money to people with more cars rather than distributing money to lower-income people doesn’t make sense, said Hoene. “I think it’s terrible,” he said of the governor’s proposal. “Millionaires and billionaires who don’t need the credit at all will be receiving it because they happen to have a record at the DMV.”

There’s probably a way to do this better, by sending the gift cards only to people who live in certain zip codes. But you’ll still get tech workers in the Mission who have a nice Tesla (which doesn’t even use gas) and clearly don’t need $400.

He could also send $400 gift cards to everyone whose tax return puts them in the bottom 20 percent (or whatever, the bottom 40 percent) of state earners.

Or Newsom could be talking about the excess profits of the oil companies. Or the fact that Chevron, with record profits, won’t even pay its workers decent wages and provide safe conditions.

Or he could send me and Mark Zuckerberg a gift card. Thanks, Gav.

If this terrible idea actually happens, I am going to take my $400 gift card and immediately send it to the Coalition on Homelessness, 280 Turk St. Second Floor, SF CA 94102. The folks at the Coalition can figure out how to give that card to people who really need it far better than Gavin Newsom can.

How about all of the at least 25,000 car owners in this city who don’t need the $400 help me make this a thing: Tell your state reps not to vote for the plan, but if it happens anyway, let’s all send the cards to the Coalition. Let’s post it on social media, tell all our friends, and see if we can do, in a very modest way, some good with this bad proposal.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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