First their was public transportation. But that wasn’t good enough. Now there’s a new buzzword in the social justice lexicon: Transportation Justice. The State of California Air Resources Board (CARB) is considering a plan to provide vouchers to “the poor” to help them buy energy efficient vehicles such as Nissan Leafs, which cost $21,000, or other government-approved “green” cars. CARB is unabashedly proposing this under the banner of “Transportation Justice.” This is an interesting concept for the board as they are required by law to focus on environmental solutions, not “justice.”
Just like its father, “Cash for Clunkers,” (Clunkers) this new Transportation Justice boondoggle will sow nothing but negative results. Unlike its father, this program could last for years and get into some serious cash for taxpayers to underwrite.
For those of you that do not remember the 2009 Clunkers—in what was one of the first fiascos that foreshadowed a trail of disappointments—the Obama administration program subsidized the purchase of new cars for people trading in old, less environmentally sound vehicles. This first endeavor in the pretend world of Transportation Justice was hailed as a harbinger for enlightened energy and transportation policy that would soon spew from the Obama Administration like a gusher in West Texas. We would all be saved!
Alas, Clunkers did nothing to increase car sales for that year. It did push cars sales up for several months and then car sales dropped like a rock off a table. Plus the US destroyed 700,000 used cars—all cars traded in had to be destroyed, of course.
The reality land result? Used car prices increased by 30% the following year, making it difficult for “the poor” to find or buy any reliable used car they could afford. Many used cars dealers and repair businesses went out of business, increasing unemployment due to a lack of cars to sale, service or repair. According to the Brookings Institute (a liberal think tank) the environmental benefits were “negligible”. A real Clunker.
Fortunately, taxpayers paid “only” $2.85 BILLION for the program, not counting the investment in Government Motors (GM), a pittance in the liberal world. In other words, it was the perfect Progressive program with its unintended consequences far more damaging than it’s supposed benefits.
Transportation Justice: it’s alive!
But in the Progressive world, failure begets more failure. Enter CARB in California. In a November staff report, the California Board reviewed its “Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program” first authorized in 2007. This program is funded by a $1 surcharge on car registrations. This $30 million per year program provides motorists with $1,000 to $1,500 per car “retired” within the State. The Board has also been piloting a program to provide up to $4,000 per owner to “retire” old cars and buy newer, cleaner vehicles.
On a personal note, I saw this happen with some young college friends. They would pool their money, buy a “junker” for $200-$600, drive it for a month or two, then sell it to the State for $1500. It became a way for youngsters to subsidize their part-time jobs flipping burgers and midnight shifts at the 7-11. It is what you do in an economy that mostly creates low paying, part-time jobs.
Now, the Assembly has passed Assembly Bill 8, reauthorized the $1 surcharge until 2024. Its companion, SB 459, directs CARB to offer vouchers for “no less than $2500”, with no maximum. The fact sheet accompanying SB 459 describes the program as an effort to “promote transportation justice.” It really says that.
A CARB staff report lists the “incentives” (e.g. taxpayer funded subsidies) it would take to assist the poor in purchasing the CARB qualified cars they prefer. CARB concluded California taxpayers, via the largess of CARB, would have to pay between $18,000 to meet full cost of a vehicle for a family of three to purchase one, again with no maximum listed. This will not be like the sub-standard housing welfare recipients are herded into, we’re talking brand new Chevy Volts that (maybe) don’t catch fire anymore. You want that in leaf green or sky blue?
The report fails to discuss other ramifications of the brave new world of Transportation Justice.
- Who will pay for the service and repair of the vehicle?
- Who will insure that the vehicle and driver carry the minimal amount of auto insurance
- Who will pay the registration fee?
- Who will pay for the electricity to “fuel” the cars?
- Will owners get free parking in San Francisco or Walnut Creek?
Transportation Justice. Where does it stop in the great California Nanny State? The list of free benefits for far far too many has already grown too long: food stamps and WIC vouchers for the able-bodied, Obamaphones, ObamaCare, Section 8 housing, subsidized housing in Alamo? And now a new car.
Ah, “justice” is becoming so interesting (and expensive) in the dreamland that is California.