I'm worried that advocating a 50-cent hike in the gas tax in 1993 will be Kerry's Willie Horton. I expect it to be in every Bush campaign speech and in many, many ads. I think people will actually vote against Kerry for this long-abandoned idea.
Now, you might want to confiscate my liberal membership card after reading this, but I think a big gas-tax hike was a dumb idea, and I thought so in '93. It presupposed that all sorts of changes would happen to the way Americans get around, but it wasn't linked to any proposal to bring those changes about -- the assumption was that vast numbers of ordinary Americans would look at the price at the pump, say "Ouch!" and just decide to start taking public transportation (nonexistent for a lot of commuters) or carpool (a logistical nightmare for those who need to tack errands onto a work commute, or for the many people who can't leave work at 5:00 on the dot).
Now, remember why people were talking about this tax: In 1993, after twelve years in which the current president's father had been either president or vice president, we had run up massive federal deficits and a huge federal debt. Deficit hawks, folks like Ross Perot and the Concord Coalition, were wagging their fingers at politicians -- Democrats, mostly -- and saying that Tough Choices Had To Be Made. This was a Tough Choice. (Perot, incidentally, supported the 50-cent tax increase.)
In a way, Kerry's political instinct weren't completely off. In 1983, a similar sense of crisis about Social Security had led to the formation of a bipartisan commission, and thus to a large Social Security tax increase on ordinary workers -- a Tough Choice for which a fellow Democrat, commission member Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was praised to the end of his life. Moynihan was probably the least-bashed Democrat in Reagan and post-Reagan Washington -- maybe there was something to this Tough Choice thing.
But sticking ordinary Americans with the bill for the failed Reagan-Bush supply-side experiment-gone-horribly-awry was never a good idea, even if it might have reduced our dependency on fossil fuels. (A better idea, then and now, would be greatly increased funding of public transportation, especially in the Northeast, where many people actually like public transportation).
Bill Clinton got a much less painful gas tax through Congress in '93 -- 4.3 cents a gallon. It was part of the program that Republicans said would bring the U.S. economy to its knees. It did just the opposite.