Electric Avenue: The Democrats' crusade to rob from the poor to build electric cars for the rich
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The House Ways and Means Committee will take a fresh look at an old entitlement program in coming weeks when it debates whether to extend the decade-old federal subsidies for electric vehicles as part of a so-called green energy tax package. For the sake of our environment and our economy, the House should let this subsidy expire.

The market for electric vehicles is already established and doesn’t need propping up. There are currently more than three dozen models from at least 15 different vehicle manufacturers available on the U.S. market, providing a wide variety of choices for consumers who wish to purchase an electric vehicle. And according to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of all vehicles in the U.S. is increasing while the price of electric vehicles is dropping.

It’s true that electric vehicles are, on average, more expensive. By comparison, the average price of an electric car is $55,681 while the average price of a compact car and full-size car is $20,639 and $34,958, respectively. However, the costs of operating an electric vehicle per year are about $485, less than half of the $1,117 required to maintain a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. When it comes to cost, consumers are fully capable of deciding for themselves whether they place greater value on paying less up front or spending less on operating costs over the long haul. But it shouldn’t be the government’s role to put a finger on the scales if one type of car is more expensive to manufacture than another.


The bottom line: This is an industry that doesn’t need taxpayer help. Yet, special interests and environmental groups are lining up to demand Congress continue the subsidy. Congress should say no.

As we approach 2020, the subsidy for electric vehicles has become a handout for the rich at the expense of America’s poor and middle class. A recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service shows that nearly 80 percent of the maximum $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles now goes to families earning more than $100,000. Those subsidies are directly funded by our taxpayer dollars – meaning hardworking Kansans are footing the bill every time a wealthy Californian drives off the lot in a new electric vehicle.

Automakers are also offering extras that taxpayers have no business financing. For instance, Tesla CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskAs inflation and government debt surge, Washington is ignoring our most critical economic crisis Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks Musk says Tesla likely to accept bitcoin again MORE recently announced he was adding fart and goat sounds to Tesla horns. I support Musk’s First Amendment right to be sophomoric, but asking single moms in Wichita to subsidize his sense of humor, along with his cars, adds insult to injury.

This debate illustrates three problems with subsidies.

First, once they start, they’re very hard to eliminate, even when they become obsolete or a de facto entitlement program for the elite. As the Wall Street Journal recently wrote, “the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in late September reported that the feds handed out nearly $74 million to undeserving [electric vehicle] owners from 2014 to 2018.” That’s more than the entire annual municipal budgets of Pratt, Kingman and El Dorado, Kan., combined.


Second, Congress lacks the skills to pick winners and losers in the market. Policymakers in Washington are not venture capitalists. Very few understand markets, but many love having fun with other people’s money. Markets allocate scarce resources much more efficiently, compassionately and effectively than government. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithSenate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget Back to '70s inflation? How Biden's spending spree will hurt your wallet Military braces for sea change on justice reform MORE’s invisible hand is still a much more nimble automaker than any politician in Washington.

Third, subsidies divert scarce resources away from entrepreneurs who are the key to job creation and clean energy innovation. Even during the unprecedented energy boom that has made the U.S. the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer, the left likes to lecture America about fossil fuels being a finite resource. Yet, they conveniently ignore the fact that taxpayer dollars are also a finite resource. Every dollar taxpayers are forced to spend creating a new horn sound for Tesla is a dollar we can’t use to create jobs, make health care more affordable or develop cleaner energy technology.

When it comes to the environment, Democrats in Washington, D.C., are blind to their own hypocrisy. Extremists in Congress who dreamed up the “Green New Deal” and want to ban airplanes also oppose natural gas and innovations like fracking that have allowed the U.S. to reduce its carbon emissions more than any other nation worldwide.

Democrats don’t own the moral high ground when it comes to creation. I would like to introduce them to Kansas’ farmers and ranchers who are world leaders and pioneers when it comes to environmental stewardship. No one cares more about conservation than landowners. Washington liberals are using concerns about the natural environment to create a political environment favorable to socialism.

In the classic song, “Electric Avenue,” singer Eddy Grant laments poverty and class struggle. Today, Democrats want to build their own electric avenue on the backs of America’s poor and middle class. They should instead get out of the way and let free markets and consumers handle the task of putting an electric car in every garage – if that’s the avenue individuals choose.

Rep. Ron EstesRonald (Ron) Gene EstesThe case for improving America's research and experimentation tax credit To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Lobbying world MORE represents Kansas’ 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means.