DISPATCHES FROM THE PARENTHESES STATES: California, Leading from Behind, Victor Davis Hanson writes:

California somehow has managed to have the fourth-highest gas taxes in the nation, yet its roads are rated 44th among the 50 states. Nearly 70 percent of California roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition by the state senate. In response, the state legislature naturally wants to raise gas taxes, with one proposal calling for an increase of 12 cents per gallon, which would give California the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Because oil prices have crashed, state bureaucrats apparently believe that the public won’t notice the tax increase in their fill-up costs* – even though special California fuel mandates already help make gas prices 25 percent higher than the national average.

Consider California’s upside-down logic.

The state wanted to discourage driving and promote hybrid vehicles by upping taxes on carbon fuels. It worked, though it cost the public dearly. People drove less and bought more fuel-efficient cars. But now, because less gas is burned, fewer taxes are collected. So the state wants to reward motorists for their green sacrifices by raising their taxes even higher to make up for missing revenue. If state motorists drive even less and cram into two-seat commuter cars, will California further reward them with even higher gas taxes?

Meanwhile, in the other big blue parenthesis state, “Cigarette tax revenue plunges as smokers buy outside New York:”

New York state cigarette tax collections have plunged by about $400 million over the past five years…sales of taxed cigs in New York are off by 54 percent in the past decade, which is also cutting into the profits of local store owners peddling smokes. In that same period, about 19 percent of New Yorkers stopped smoking, a pace well below the huge sales dip.

“The Germans call it ‘schadenfreude’ when you take pleasure from another person’s misfortune,” noted Dan Mitchell, a tax expert at the Washington DC-based Cato Institute, commenting on the New York smoking tax fiasco.

Mitchell added, “I confess that I get a certain joy from this story because politicians are being punished for their greed. I like the fact that they have less money to waste.”

To paraphrase VDH’s conclusion, both states have governments that ultimately serve one purpose — reminding Americans what not to do.

*And they’re counting on their Democrat operatives with bylines not to point that out — who are all too eager to follow their marching orders.