I'm doing this because there's not one political leader who has the temerity to discuss what I'm about to propose.

It's time for — are you ready for this? — the graduated gasoline tax.

Here's what I'm proposing: this year, we start with a fifty-cent per gallon per year increase in the gasoline tax. So, after six years, we'd have a three-dollar increase in the gas tax.

Let's consider the advantages of such a proposal:

By phasing the tax in like this, we would not unduly punish the dopes who recently bought, say, Lincoln Navigators, and other vehicles that get 14 miles to the gallon. Those people will have a chance to rethink their purchase, trade it in — or have an accident.

It would give automakers a chance to rethink their product lines and retool accordingly.

The additional tax dollars could fund public and private research into alternative fuels and public transportation.

It will lower the real price of fuel, including home heating oil, as demand starts to plummet. At the current rate of increase of fuel consumption, gasoline prices are going to approach six dollars a gallon in six years, anyway. So, instead of giving those extra three bucks to the oil companies, we can give it — are you ready for this? — back to ourselves! So, in addition to funding the aforementioned research, we can pay off the federal deficit, shore up programs like Medicare and Social Security... and increase funding for National Public Radio!

Now, there are people who are going to say, "Wait a minute! I've got five kids, and I need a big vehicle." Fine. We'll have an exemption for you. If you've got five kids, and you have a big gas-guzzling vehicle, then the government will adjust the per-child tax deduction, so you don't get unduly penalized.

Let's say you need a van or a pick-up truck for work. Well, you can write off some of your gas taxes against real income. We can also give tax incentives for people who have these big trucks for business use, to buy a second vehicle that's more fuel efficient, so they don't drive their big rigs for personal use.

I've got more thoughts on this modest proposal, but you get the idea.

This is very important. We need it. It's going to save us from ourselves.

Ray Magliozzi