So, it’s come to this. The Chevy Volt is now bad, says fading Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, because you can’t put a gun rack on it.
GM’s electric car isn’t as ‘Merican as that pick-up truck in Easy Rider, I guess. And Newt Gingrich just loves movies with happy endings.
Feb. 21, USA Today: [Gingrich] He calls Chevrolet's $39,995 extended-range electric car, the Volt, "an interesting experimental car," but says that the average income of buyers is $170,000. He notes that the Obama administration wants to raise subsidies from $7,500 to $10,000 on electric cars -- an amount, he argued, could instead be used to buy less well-off Americans a good used cars. He implies Democrats are trying to downsize America's cars and draws a big laugh and cheer when he adds, "You can't put a gun rack in a Volt."
So many things to unpack from that statement. Let’s make a list.
1. The electric car subsidy is intended to support experimental technology through its early phases. It’s valid to question whether that’s good policy, but to assert the subsidy is designed as a giveaway to the rich is a…what’s the word?…lie. It's actually exactly like Gingrich’s beloved moon base incentive scheme, except this is cheaper and more likely to yield consumer technology. How much did NASA spend on Tang, exactly?
If Gingrich wants to end subsidies for the rich, rather than focusing on the roughly $40-45 million spent annually on Volt tax credits (5000-6000 units sold in 2011 multiplied by the $7500 tax credit), perhaps he could call for eliminating the nearly $3 billion taxpayers spend every week subsidizing the oil industry. Or, you know, means testing Social Security.
2. Is Gingrich really implying that as president he would support a program to help poor people buy $10,000 cars? Slow down there, Trotsky.
3. I don’t know about Democrats, but you know who tried to downsize America’s cars? The father of Gingrich opponent Mitt Romney. The late George Romney made a lot of money selling small cars to American buyers as head of AMC.
You know who else downsized America’s cars? Honda and Toyota. Cars like the Civic pretty much knee-capped Detroit during the 1970s and 1980s while the Big Three then, like Gingrich today, believed consumers really wanted 8 MPG rolling boats. The marketplace downsized America’s cars. The end.
4. Oh, and it turns out you actually can put a gun rack on a Volt. Fancy that.
Once again Newt Gingrich demonstrates he is, as Paul Krugman once quipped, “a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”