If you think this is going to be one of those hard-hitting policy pieces that you get from the likes of Anaya and Jackson, or one of those brainy blogs from Winegarden. It’s not. It’s all about me, and my yearning for that fabulous, subsidized Tesla.
I’m in the market for a car. I finally gave my 1991 Honda Civic to the Salvation Army earlier this year. Holding on for more than 25 years to what the parking attendants covertly called “that Hello Kitty car” shows just how indifferent I am to the kind of car I drive. To my undiscerning taste, all cars look alike, drive alike, and serve the same purpose – getting me from A to B. Moreover, driving is one of the things I like to do least.
Then I discovered the Tesla.
I can’t say some things because I know I should be ladylike, so I’ll just quote my colleague Bartlett Cleland, PRI’s senior fellow in Tech and Innovation, who said in a recent PRI podcast about the Tesla: When I got in, my face was drooling.
As a non-car person, I know “I’m not worthy” of the technology. Indeed, my appreciation of the Tesla begins and ends with design. If it were a gas guzzler, I would still love it. If it had my old Honda’s engine in it, great. Pretty shallow, I know. But I fall back to what Virginia Postrel wrote in her book The Substance of Style: “Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.”
Indeed, who knew I could ever pine for a car? Then there were those tax credits — calling “Ro, come hither!” Apparently, lots of others have answered that siren song. Wayne Winegarden, in his upcoming study on electric cars, cites that 99 percent of all electric vehicle tax credits go to households with incomes above $50,000 (based on tax year 2014). This means that the top half of taxpayers are getting all the subsidies. And in addition to the $7,500 tax credit electric car buyers will receive from the Feds, Californians get $4,500 for state tax credits and potentially another $3,000 for local tax credits. That’s about 36 percent in total tax credits as a percentage of the price. Hooray!
I never liked driving and always thought cars were boring. Moreover, I’ve walked or taken public transportation to work for almost my entire career. But thanks to tax credits and wrong-headed incentives, I may find myself in a beautiful Tesla in gridlock traffic on I405. That’s La La land.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice-president of the Pacific Research Institute