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Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop
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The Car the Right Wing Can't Kill


Imagine that. Former Republican President George H.W. Bush recently bought his son Neil a Chevrolet Volt as a birthday present. This is the car that all right-thinking right-wingers demand we hate. In their political prism, the Volt has everything going against it: It's beloved by environmentalists for getting 61 miles to the gallon. It's assembled by unionized workers at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck plant. It enjoys government subsidies intended to encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars (started actually by H.W.'s oldest son, former President George W. Bush).

To many, this resembles progress. But to "conservatives" wanting government-bailed-out Detroit to go down in flames, especially if the United Auto Workers union goes with it, this plug-in hybrid is the car that has to die.

Lo and behold, U.S. car sales were hot last month, with General Motors selling over 100,000 vehicles that get at least 30 miles to a gallon. And sales of its Chevy Volt more than doubled from the month before.

The irony is that GM has temporarily stopped production of the Volt following earlier weak sales. And here's why the Volt wasn't flying out of the lots: The right-wing media had launched an outrageous smear campaign against it. As former GM executive Bob Lutz sarcastically put it, the Volt had become "the poster child for President Obama's socialist meddling in the free automotive market."

Lutz responded with special anger to a recent Bill O'Reilly Fox News show in which the host condemned the Volt as "an unmitigated disaster." Joshing over the disappointing Volt sales, O'Reilly's guest Lou Dobbs said, "It doesn't work." Also, "It catches fire."

None of this happens to be true. The European-market Volt worked well enough to be named the European Car of the Year. The "catching fire" claim is pure fiction, Lutz said, based on battery tests "under extremely destructive experimental conditions." Two of the three batteries involved weren't even in a car.

No Volt has ever caught fire in an accident on a public road, he added, while between 2003 and 2007, some 278,000 gasoline-powered cars did.

Sadly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has lowered himself by catering to feverish right-wing fantasies. He softened the rhetoric a bit by advancing the myth that an already weak General Motors and Chrysler could have survived in bankruptcy reorganization without government help. Most economists deemed that scenario impossible at a time of economic meltdown, when nearly all lending had stopped. And who would buy a car from a bankrupt company not backed by the government?

Judging from past writings on energy policy, Romney probably subscribes to a Bush-like belief that government has a role in helping Americans reduce their oil consumption. But he did join the anti-Volt pile-on this week. Using past tense he commented, "I'm not sure America was ready for the Chevy Volt." Then he wished it well.

What weird brand of politics revels at the prospect of plowing under a U.S. product so innovative that the Chinese are demanding its engineering secrets? It's a politics that ignores the huge subsidies that other governments, including China's, are pouring into energy technology. It's a politics that seems to blindly hate organized labor — even after the autoworkers had accepted enormous cuts in their numbers and compensation to keep the car companies afloat. It's a politics that went goofy over Chrysler's Super Bowl ad in which Clint Eastwood announced, "It's halftime in America." Without evidence, some heard a thinly veiled call for a second Obama administration.

Exactly whose side are these people on? If these self-styled patriots want to keep waving the flag, fine. But it should be a white flag, not the American one.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




18 Comments | Post Comment
The fact that environmentalists support the Volt pretty much proves that they're more interested in wealth redistribution than in the environment. Either that, or they're just stupid.

Where do they think the electricity comes from to charge it? No, it doesn't come "from the wall."

It comes from coal-fired powerplants.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Wed Apr 4, 2012 9:41 PM
Only about 4000 volts have been sold since their introduction.
Also, re: "...General Motors and Chrysler could have survived in bankruptcy reorganization without government help." Ford didit, and thousands of other businesses have. Many others failed. That's how business works. It doesn't matter who "started " it, using tax-dollars to bail out private enterprise is wrong and must stop.
Comment: #2
Posted by: David Henricks
Thu Apr 5, 2012 1:20 AM
Re: David Henricks

If GM and Chrysler had been allowed to go through the normal bankruptcy process, rather than the blatantly illegal chicanery the Obama crowd ordered, they would have been able to get out from under the UAW contracts that put them in that position in the first place.

GM will never be profitable under its current contracts, and anyone who tells you that they currently are is lying. The taxpayers will never get their money back.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Thu Apr 5, 2012 3:45 AM
Is this the same Volt that GM idled production of?
Comment: #4
Posted by: zach
Thu Apr 5, 2012 4:06 AM
Paranoia will not advance your cause. Nobody tried to kill anything, sales just haven't boomed. It may be the first time a liberal idea came to the open market (subsidy, not quite) and like most liberal ideas, it fails. So far. Drive up the price of gas much more and you might win by economic coercion. Means don't matter to you, right? Little old ladies can freeze in the winter as long as we don't drill. The Volt is a failure so far. Open markets just expose that failure in a way schools and entitlement programs don't. Skip the lectures about flag waving, ANY President aside government should not be subsidizing one product over another. As we would tell a 14 year old, yes, your heart is broken, but you will survive.

Talk about searching for a reason to hate. Pitiful.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Tom
Thu Apr 5, 2012 5:05 AM
@David Henricks: Yes, Ford managed to avoid bankruptcy because they got their loans locked in before the meltdown.

@Tom: "A liberal idea came to market." You realize, of course, the Volt was announced to the world in 2007, when Obama was a US Senator. Man, those Kenyans can do ANYTHING.

Maybe Fox Noise forgot to tell you how the US is drilling more under Obama, to the point where we're a net exporter of refined petroleum.

And we shouldn't subsidize one product over another? Does that mean you want to get rid of oil subsidies, too?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Bruce Strickland
Thu Apr 5, 2012 5:15 AM
Re: Bruce Strickland

"And we shouldn't subsidize one product over another? Does that mean you want to get rid of oil subsidies, too?"

Back to the DSA talking points, eh?

There are no "oil subsidies," except in the fevered minds of the left. Oil companies are eligible for the same tax write-offs as GM, Chrysler, or any other corporation. They don't get any special treatment.

Comment: #7
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Thu Apr 5, 2012 5:28 AM
Perhaps you are over simplifying this. The Toyota Prius sells as many units in a month as the Volt does in a year. Where is the right wing indignation you describe for the Volt? Maybe there is more going on here than petty politics, but alas it is your stock in trade. Why does Obama not want a Prius? Oh yeah, the government does not have a Toyota. Yup, no politics at all.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Ethan Roninson
Thu Apr 5, 2012 7:41 AM
Actually that is 18000 Priuses, and 8000 Volts total. In another year the total will equal Prius sales for a month. The Prius does not even get free presedential advertising. Hmmmmm
Comment: #9
Posted by: Ethan Roninson
Thu Apr 5, 2012 7:51 AM
With a price tag of $41,000 I can tell you that the Volt is out of my price range, and a lot of middle class Americans too in this reccession. Yet the government is willing to give people 8,000 to people who buy it. So we're going to give tax money we collect from everyone and give it to people who can afford to buy fancy electric cars? Isen't that the opposite of Obamas plan? Dosen't he want to take from the rich and give to the poor? Seems he has this one backwards.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Apr 5, 2012 9:28 AM
Re: Chris McCoy

"With a price tag of $41,000 I can tell you that the Volt is out of my price range, and a lot of middle class Americans too in this reccession. "

The only people who are going to buy a ridiculously impractical car like the Volt are those who either already have several other cars, so they can use it as a symbol of how "green" they are, or those who don't actually need a car in the first place.

Nobody who lives in a cold climate will buy one, because turning on the heater in sub-zero weather will reduce its already laughable range to about 3 blocks.

Oh, and the claimed fuel efficiency when it's running on battery power? Total BS. It was calculated using the same sort of bogus math used to gin up the "global warming" hoax.

If you want to actually save on driving expenses, find yourself a late-model Hyundai or something (assuming you can still find one after the "Cash for Clunkers" debacle). You'd have to drive a Volt for about 10 years in order to break even. Well, unless you include the $10,000 it'll cost you to replace the batteries when they wear out.

This whole thing would be pretty funny, if my tax money wasn't going to subsidize it.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Thu Apr 5, 2012 10:05 AM
Ms. Harrop I guess I should be flattered that you believe us crazy right wing conservatives could actually thwart free market capitalism. If the Volt was truely a breakthrough product that people wanted then it would sell. The truth is with most of us living in suburban areas, having to commute long distances to work and shop, and with families spread out across states most folks want cars they can drive for long distances without having to plug in. Even though the volt also has a gas engine the cost does not justify the economy.
Comment: #12
Posted by: david
Thu Apr 5, 2012 10:17 AM
Re\: Strickland -

Nah, I'm a Ford guy. Mullaly went to the first meeting, was treated like dirt by Senators, came home and said "I think we can do it without them." It was real close for a while, but things look better now. Stock still languishes. I know Chrysler was in worse shape, but then Obama gave them away to Fiat SPA, and droppped 800 dealerships as part of the deal. Those that gave to democratic causes survived. That's nice.Your brand of equal treatment under the law.

The Volt was awarded government subsidy by Obama's administration, sort of like Solyndra and 123 Battery. A little leaguer would be ashamed of that batting average, it suggest the government ain't so good at picking 'em. I never mentioned Kenya, are you some kind of rascist?

Private lands are being drilled more. Obama can announce that, but he can't take credit because he can't stop it. So far. Federal lands? Uh, not so much. Luddites lean left, little old ladies freeze.

In the matter of Trayvon Martin Fox news told the truth and NBC lied. I don't have cable, but I read. A lot.

Comment: #13
Posted by: Tom
Thu Apr 5, 2012 12:31 PM
Frankly, the author of this op-ed is an idiot. Yesterday it was reported that the financial breakeven for purchasers of the Chevy Volt - the number of years it takes to save the cost premium you spend on the Volt vs. a comparable Chevy with a conventional drive train - is 27 years. Repeat: 27 years. So we're looking at 2040 before the Volt pays for itself. But liberals never care about the costs, or breakevens, or consider reasonable alternatives to their pet causes, which is why we are facing runaway deficits and an exploding $15.7 TRILLION deficit. Oh, and it's why Senate staffers announced just yesterday that Obamacare estimates are off by $17 TRILLION... Obama said that Obamacare would not add one dime to the US deficit. Nope, the number is more like 170 TRILLION dimes. Another minor miscalculation but a way of life for liberals. Ignore the costs. Just make someone else pay.
Comment: #14
Posted by: joe loughran
Fri Apr 6, 2012 5:56 AM
Postscript: I do drive a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and I get 28 miles per gallon. But the Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets 28 miles per gallon and will pay for itself in 8 years. And I got the car at a significant discount when I purchased it new, which will shorten the breakeven significantly. I add this point so the author of this lame oped does not resort to knee-jerk stereotyping of me as a Republican who does not care about the environment. I do, and my actions match my words.
Comment: #15
Posted by: joe loughran
Fri Apr 6, 2012 6:02 AM
Re: joe loughran

"Yesterday it was reported that the financial breakeven for purchasers of the Chevy Volt - the number of years it takes to save the cost premium you spend on the Volt vs. a comparable Chevy with a conventional drive train - is 27 years. Repeat: 27 years"

And does anyone seriously believe that in 2040 you'll find a single 1012 Chevy Volt still running? Outside of a museum for bad car designs, that is.

Comment: #16
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Fri Apr 6, 2012 9:54 PM
Re: Jeff GunnPutting thousands of people out of work, didn't happen because this one bail out worked. UNLIKE Bush's 700 billion Banking bail out which hasn't worked, and left the people holding the bill while Bankers refused to loan still and ripped off this country, as the Banks aren't loaning still to people, even with excellent credit. I have to ask at this point, is the Party more important then people or your own country? Is winning more important then "right"..Is buying into Fox's clear propaganda really the Patriotic thing to do? Facts can be found, but never on Fox, literally never. The rest of the world shakes their head and wonders "What kind of people buy into a Party that willingly watches the country sink just to win and finish off the ruin they left this country in before Obama had to come in and clean up the mess Bush made. I used to be a republican, but these people running?? Honeslty, have you no embarrassment at these losers and their rhetoric, lies and misinformation? It's not as if it can't be verified? The person Obama IS, compared to the creation made up by the GOP attack machine are not the same person. Wake up for the sake of America..not a Party!!
Comment: #17
Posted by: Lynda
Mon Apr 9, 2012 12:50 PM
Re: Lynda

"Putting thousands of people out of work, didn't happen because this one bail out worked"

Of course, that depends on your definition of "worked." Sure, there are thousands of union members who are drawing a paycheck from GM in order to build cars nobody wants to buy, and the taxpayers are out billions of dollars they'll never get back, but none of that matters to you. And never mind the blatantly illegal way the bankruptcy proceedings were shoved through the courts.

As for the rest of your screed, you're so far under the Obama spell that there's no point in even discussing it.

Comment: #18
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:42 PM
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