Friday, November 21, 2008

Privilege Check

While listening to NPR's Science Friday, a very interesting program on plug-in hybrid cars and other green car technology, I was stopped dead by this (paraphrased) question:

"Why don't we give the bailout money to people to buy these [electric] cars?"

Well, well-off white man, let me tell you why. Because the millions of people (yes, millions) who will be out of jobs can't eat electric cars. They can't live in electric cars. The electric cars cannot run without a home electric outlet to plug them into. Not to mention the impact on the rest of our economy if the Big Three go out of business.

Also not to mention that right now, half the problem with the Big Three is that the economy is already in the toilet, and despite talking heads on the news still debating whether or not we're in a recession, the bigger question for most of us is if we're in a depression. Nobody is buying cars. People would need to sell the cars they have to buy these electric cars, and if nobody is buying cars, certainly nobody's going to buy the old car that people have to get rid of.

The auto industry needs a bailout not solely because they haven't invested in new technologies and made competitive cars (though surely that's helped). They need a bailout because suddenly people are not buying cars. And people like me want them to get the bailout because of the people, mostly unionized workers, who would lose their good jobs if these companies do go out of business.

Also, while we're at it, the Big Three were producing gas-guzzlers because that's what the market demanded. If we're so devoted to the free market, why are we criticizing these companies for catering to what the free market wanted and not trying to force-feed us smaller, better cars? (/sarcasm)

I love the idea of plug-in hybrids, of solar panels, and of tax incentives to build and buy all of these things. But that isn't going to come anywhere close to fixing the problems of the auto industry, the economy at large, or the lives of millions of people for whom buying a new car is a pipe dream, let alone a house upon which to place solar panels.

This has been your privilege check of the week. (Should this be a regular feature? I mean, Erik already called out certain liberal bloggers...)