Believe in big government? Buy a Volt.

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Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

If you are having trouble imagining the problems created by a government that expands relentlessly into every corner of American life, a government that in trying to do everything succeeds at nothing, you need look no further than the Chevy Volt.

If you’re not familiar with the Chevy Volt, it is the collaboration of General Motors and the United States government. It is perhaps the most politicized industrial product of the past one hundred years.

The Chevy Volt was supposed to be a pure plug-in electric vehicle. It was to be the vehicle of the new, green 21st century of transportation. When if finally came off the assembly line, it wound up being a very poor hybrid, an electric vehicle with a small gasoline engine.

Touted relentlessly by the Obama administration as an example of cooperation between industry and government, and given as one of the justifications for investing $50 plus billion in taxpayer money in an otherwise defunct GM, the Chevy Volt is supposed to be a giant step on the path to ending America’s so-called “addiction” to oil.

Better not cut up the Exxon card just yet. To say that the Chevy Volt is a lemon would be to insult lemon growers.

The Chevy Volt would not exist absent taxpayer money. The cost of manufacture is so high that the car cannot sell at a price that anyone will pay. At a sticker price of over $41,000, every Chevy Volt comes with a buyer’s subsidy of $7,500 funded by, guess who – you. You own a piece of every Chevy Volt sold, despite the fact that you yourself would likely never buy one.

Consumer Reports magazine’s review of the Volt is pretty hard to misinterpret. “When you’re looking at dollars and cents,” says the magazine, “it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Volt isn’t particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it’s not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy.”

The Volt is selling fewer than 700 cars a month. Nobody wants one.

What the Volt does well, however, is clearly illustrate why a big, activist government is a bad idea. The government is particularly ill-suited to the task of competing in the free market. No matter how much President Obama pushes the Volt as the green energy car of the future, two things will always be true. He will never own or ride in one and he can’t make you buy one.

Just imagine the same government managing the health care industry. Or managing the food retailing industry. Imagine the government and say, Commodore Computers, (a long-dead name from the early days of personal computers), collaborating to create the iPad. The thing would way ten pounds and would support only a handful of government created apps, instead of the hundreds of thousands that have been created by the far-flung and creative forces of the free market.

In the Soviet Union, the big cheeses in the Communist Party rode around in Mercedes that had had the hood ornaments and emblems removed. Government bureaucrats and functionaries were consigned to the rattle-traps produced by the Soviet-owned car industry.

Maybe we can use the Soviet example and put IRS field agents and EPA inspectors in the fleet of Chevy Volts that no one will ever buy.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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4 Responses

  1. C M Solomon says:

    We shouldn’t be surprised that Obama’s Government Motors can’t do rudimentary math since anything less than a trillion dollars is chicken feed. Why worry when you can print you own currency.

    Any new and efficient (gasoline only, 40 MPG) vehicle costing $20,000, driven an average of 15,000 miles per year, will consume 375 gallons per year. At $4.00 per gallon, the total gasoline cost per year is $1,500. It will take 13.3 YEARS TO REACH $20,000 IN TOTAL FUEL COST.

    Conclusion: Unless the Chevy Volt (at $40,000) can operate free for 13.3 years, it is cheaper to buy a new $20,000 car that gets 40 MPG and pay $4.00 per gallon for gasoline.

    I keep wondering how the electric grid could handle an extra one Million electric cars since Obama isn’t interested in expanding the low cost, coal-fired, power plants that now dominate the electric power industry. In fact he has promised to make them go bankrupt with his new EPA rules and the hysteria over carbon dioxide pollution.

  2. I’m firmly convinced that if we citizens want to reign in ALL government(s) insanity, then we must go to the polls and vote directly on the issue of taxation under ALL its names. The idea is to cut government’s financial jugular and put it firmly back in its proper place, as public servants and not public masters.
    It is OUR government and it is OUR money!! We citizens DO have the right to vote. Lastly, there are NO stipulations in either our Constitution or our Declaration of Independence as to what issues we citizens can, or cannot vote on. Lets TAKE OUR money back.!!!!!

  3. L Miles says:

    Here’s proof that the Obama Administration doesn’t care about return on investment (ROI) such as the Volt or care about any fiscal discipline that could halt our plunge towards national bankruptcy. Note the report today, March 7, 2011 from the Washington Times: “The federal government posted its largest monthly deficit in history in February at $223 billion”.

    Contrast this ONE MONTH $223 BILLION DEFICIT with the U.S. federal budget deficit of $161 billion for the ENTIRE FISCAL YEAR OF 2007 just four years ago.

    I feel like Rip Van Winkle. Did I miss something catastrophic that has happened to our country that could explain this horrendous destruction of our national wealth? Have we had a pandemic of Black Death (or Bubonic Plague) across the country? Did a terrorist nuclear bomb wipe out Chicago? Did a tsunami wipe out LA? Did the population of retires 65 and over (38 million in 2007) drawing Social Security, suddenly increase by 6-fold? Are we paying reparations for our loss of WW3 that I missed? Did we buy Mexico? Did the Federally unionized workforce suddenly get collective bargaining rights that didn’t exist before? Did the government buy 3 million homes that were in foreclosure and give them to the residents? Has the government started paying each of the 112 million households in the country $2,000 per month for higher utility, food, and fuel (gasoline) costs? I didn’t get a check. What despicable act of nature, government, or our enemies has created this unbelievable financial burden on those of us who work for a living and are still paying taxes?

    Is anybody awake in Congress? Could someone in the newly elected Republican dominated House of Representatives PLEASE find out where this money is going and what the citizens are getting for it? Why don’t the 29 Republican Governors conduct an investigation on behalf of their respective States? How is our country and future generations EVER going to be able to pay down this continuing and increasing level of debt?

    Can anybody be this reckless? Yes, I’m afraid so. The answer is that Obama is deliberately forcing this country into financial destitution where our very existence is going to be dependent on Federal welfare for the vast majority of Americans. It’s called Social Justice. Nobody can be this stupid, by accident. Someone in Congress or the States better get busy and STOP THIS THEFT, NOW!

  4. R Daniel King says:

    I agree with your commentary on the Volt, but government is already the dominant influencer of health care culture. The government has been influencing the culture of health care since 1965 when Medicare used cost reports that allowed hospitals to fact the costs of operational inefficiencies into future reimbursement while physicians were put on price controls. Rewarding failure to be efficient and price controls have a crystal clear history of inflation. By 1983 Medicare payments to hospitals were inflating up to 13% so hospitals were put on price controls called DRGs. After almost two decades of being rewarded for operational inefficiencies hospital culture had devolved to where leadership did not have to manage, it just needed to increase prices, create an new inefficiently run service or cut staff to respond to revenue shortages. They responded to DRGs with cuts in nursing creating an environment for preventable medical errors. In response, Medicare used the savings from price controls to reward preventable medical errors. By 1999, the Institute of Medicine found 100,000 patient were annually dying from preventable errors and today that number is closer to all the US casualties during World War II (225,000).

    When government makes failure a cash cow while underpaying excellence, it perverts free market principles while creating an unaffordable industry like health care. We see the same perverted incentives with unionized K-12 public education.

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