Jun 23, 2022 - Podcasts

What a gas tax holiday would mean for Americans

With gas prices hovering around $5 a gallon, President Biden called on Congress Wednesday to suspend the federal gas tax for 90 days. He also asked states to suspend their gas taxes, and pushed back against his Republican critics who blame him for the price surge.

  • Plus: a new solution to the housing crisis for Indigenous Americans.
  • And: Juul e-cigarettes could soon be banned in the U.S.

Guests: Axios' Hans Nichols and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday June 23. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re covering today: a new solution to the housing crisis for indigenous Americans. Plus, juul e-cigarettes could soon be banned in the U.S. But first, today’s One Big Thing: what a gas tax holiday would actually mean for prices at the pump.

NIALA: With gas prices hovering around $5 a gallon across the country, President Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for 90 days. Biden also asked states to suspend their gas taxes…and he pushed back against Republican critics who are blaming him for the price surge. Hans Nichols joins us now with a reality check. Hey, Hans.

HANS NICHOLS: Good morning.

NIALA: So Hans say this federal tax holiday happens, does that mean consumers automatically pay lower prices at the pump?

HANS: Economists will tell you no. Economists will say that in the short term, that all that 18 cents, 24 cents for diesel will go to the oil and gas producers, the refiners. Now, somewhere on a time horizon, the money in theory should revert back to consumers, to taxpayers, to people that are at the pump. It's unclear when that will happen, but probably outside of the three month window.

And that's why, you know, economists, Democratic economists, old Obama economists - That's why they're pretty uniformly negative on this proposal because they don't think that the savings will actually pass through to consumers that are lining up and filling up their tank. Now Biden's making a big push of this. He's saying, you know, he expects the oil companies to pass this through, but let's be clear. There's not a whole lot Joe Biden can do to force the oil companies. And there's really no way to sort of judge it or even like, tabulate or calculate for Biden to make sure that this actually gets to the consumers.

NIALA: What the president can do is use sort of his bully pulpit, which we saw yesterday, Hans, because he talked about how prices should be going down further at the pump and that gas station operators should be lowering prices more. How much is that public pressure helpful for the Biden administration getting the message out that look prices shouldn't be as high as they are right now?

HANS: Well, it helps them make their case. It helps the Biden administration make their case that the oil and gas companies are to blame. What the oil and gas companies say is look, oil prices are at historic highs and we are already producing and refining at capacity. We can't do anything more. And so Niala, you have this dynamic where Biden seems willing to criticize, antagonize, almost pick a fight with the one group of one part of the industry that can really solve his problem. And that is the oil and gas industry. Now there's another option and this is plan B and that is go convince the Saudis to pump more oil. And that's the other main policy lever that any president has when you're faced with historically high oil prices.

NIALA: He was also really clear in this speech about placing blame on Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Are you now saying we were wrong to support Ukraine? Are you saying we were wrong to stand up to Putin? Are you saying that we would rather have lower gas prices in America and Putin's iron fist in Europe? I don't believe that.

NIALA: Hans, how much was this announcement as much about the opportunity to respond to those criticisms?

HANS: That certainly was a factor, right? I mean, the White House has been mulling, considering this really since January, February and the polling on it kind of indicates that they needed to be seen as taking some action even if you know, it's not gonna be terribly successful. The line I heard was you wanna get caught trying. Whether or not this actually lowers the prices, you know, who knows if it actually will because the oil markets, international oil markets are so complicated and there's so many other push and pull factors at play, but clearly the White House wants to get caught trying.

NIALA: Hans Nichols covers the Biden administration for Axios. Thanks Hans.

HANS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: In a moment, a new approach to housing for indigenous communities in South Dakota. Welcome back to Axios Today, I’m Niala Boodhoo. In South Dakota, indigenous communities have struggled with housing for decades. Many Native Americans on reservations and in nearby urban enclaves live in dilapidated and overcrowded structures without electricity or indoor plumbing. Now, a community development group is trying something new to change that: returning to Oglala Lakota traditions. Here with the story is Axios justice and race reporter Russell Contreras – Russ, I think we need to start with just understanding the history of housing when it comes to native Americans, and why there are so many issues today.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: We have to remember when indigenous people were put on reservations, many of them weren't allowed to apply for home loans and mortgages either on reservation land, or in urban settings. Under treaty agreements the federal government was supposed to provide basic housing and basic services for native people. That didn't happen. So when we, if we flash forward today, not only is there a housing shortage but there are lack of services that allow indigenous people to apply for mortgages, go to banks, do everything that everybody else can.

NIALA: So Russ, that explains why we say that some native Americans, indigenous communities have housing in this country where they don't have electricity or indoor plumbing.

RUSS: That's right. They're located in isolated regions. There isn't that, water, sewage structures. Not only that, I mean, if you look at the Navajo nation or in Lakota, these homes are far out in these isolated areas and it's difficult to get repairs.

NIALA: Different people have been working on this, including the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. How are they trying to solve this problem?

NIALA: They came up with the idea that if you teach about say credit or financial literacy, and you talk about building a housing structure that is sustainable, that you can attack poverty that way. So what this corporation has done isought out, uh, indigenous tribal members told them that you, we can bring you into financial literacy classes, we can show you basically how to apply for a loan, fix credit and so forth, and then buy a home either on their development or elsewhere. Thunder Valley is really interesting because they're to develop these really environmental sustainable houses, and they do it in a Lakota tradition. So instead of block by block, they do it in circles like you would have back in the day when they were nomadic and put out, say a teepee, these are very culturally relevant structures. It speaks to their heritage. In addition, They're teaching you on how to apply for a home and get something on your own. It's very unique. And a lot of indigenous tribes are looking at Thunder Valley to see how successful they're gonna be.

NIALA: How successful has this been? How many people have they been able to house?

RUSS: Well, since they're still starting, just a handful of folks have purchased homes. But the pandemic also put a pause on some of their programs. They couldn't come in and do the financial literacy classes, uh, doing it, uh, online as a challenge because there's not a lot of broadband. But they do other things too, as well as, as teaching, tribal members, the Lakota language, and especially pass it on to younger generations. So these programs are designed to be culturally relevant to these populations.

NIALA:Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras. Thanks Russell.

RUSS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Before we go - cigarettes AND e-cigarettes have been in the headlines this week as the target of two major regulatory moves from the Biden administration. The FDA proposed a new rule Tuesday that would cut back on the amount of nicotine in cigarettes sold in the US, to bring it to non-addictive levels. In the proposed rule, regulators said the cap on nicotine would make cigarettes and other tobacco products less attractive to younger people. It’s unclear how and when this could go into effect.

The FDA is also preparing to order vaping company Juul Labs to pull its electronic cigarettes from the U.S. market - that’s according to a report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The announcement is expected this week. It follows a nearly two-year FDA review of data from the company, as concerns grew over the company’s role in hooking young users. But Juul has gone down in popularity among high schoolers after the FDA banned its flavored pods. The FDA has not however, banned disposable, flavored e-cigarettes from other brands which are still highly popular among teenagers.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or you can message me directly on twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Money Rehab with Nicole Lapin [pronounced Lap-pin] is the chart-topping daily podcast that’ll help you gain control of your financial life in 10 minutes or less.

Whether you’re trying to save money at the gas station or navigate salary negotiations, Money Rehab is here to help thanks to its host: award-winning finance journalist and former CNBC anchor Nicole Lapin [pronounced Lap-pin].

Follow Money Rehab with Nicole Lapin [pronounced Lap-pin] wherever you find podcasts.

Go deeper