Washington Post editorial writer Charles
Lane has a
nice takedown today of Tesla, the high-flying federally
subsidized electric car company, as an example of “trickle-down”
economics as practiced by modern-day progressives
Tesla’s corporate fate is ultimately less interesting than the
fact that so many people, especially progressives, have become so
deeply invested in it — politically and psychologically, if not
Tesla epitomizes the mutation of modern American liberalism.
Once an ideology whose central concern was the plight of
lunch-bucket working stiffs and oppressed minorities, liberalism is
increasingly about environmentalism and related “quality of life”
This version of green capitalism might be justified if it
delivered the public goods it promises. Tesla’s trickle-down
business plan calls for sales of expensive early models to pave the
way for an everyman electric vehicle later this decade.
But even if widely adopted, Teslas would have little impact on
climate change as long as drivers have to charge their vehicles
from a coal- and natural gas-fired U.S. electric grid. In May,
JPMorgan Chase analysts calculated that the
Model S’s annual fossil fuel “footprint” is bigger than that of a
Honda Civic hybrid.
Nor is there a case for electric cars based on their
contribution to U.S. energy security. Thanks to increased oil and
natural gas production, United States imported only 40 percent of
its oil in 2012, down from 60 percent in 2005,
according to the Energy Department. That trend is projected
Of course, jobs — “green jobs” — are supposed to square the
ideological circle for liberals, making taxpayer “investment” in
Tesla and other environmentally friendly firms a “win-win” for
plutocrats and proletarians.
Tesla employs 2,000
people at good wages. But others would have used the same
resources to employ people, perhaps more than 2,000, if the
government had not funneled them into Tesla — both directly through
loans, emissions credits and tax breaks and indirectly by
encouraging private investors to buy stock in a government-favored
Tesla’s market capitalization, more than $17 billion, represents not
only a possible government-aided stock bubble but also a huge
societal opportunity cost.
Tesla’s Model S is, no doubt, a cool car. Whether it serves any
public purpose commensurate with the public resources it has
absorbed is another question.
For now, all we know is that [Tesla founder] Elon Musk, backed
by Wall Street and Washington, has built a very efficient machine
for the upward distribution of wealth and income.
Can you spell C-R-O-N-Y C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M?
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/12/tesla-as-example-modern-progressive-tric