As part of the huge $878 trillion (Or was it $787 billion? Can anyone remember, anymore?) "economic stimulus" created in Washington last winter, Congress OK'd a tax credit of between $4,200 and $5,500 for Americans who purchase an electric vehicle.
Some controversy arose as to which vehicles, exactly, qualified. The IRS recently ruled any electric vehicle qualifies for the subsidy, so long as it is road-worthy.
That means the model in question needs to have side and rearview mirrors and three-point seat belts, and be capable of going at least 15 to 25 mph. Meet those requirements, combine the federal credit with similar incentive plans in many states, and many a creative subject of the realm has discovered the government will now pay virtually the entire cost of acquiring a new ... golf cart.
"We thought Cash for Clunkers was the ultimate waste of taxpayer money, but as usual we were too optimistic," The Wall Street Journal editorialized on Oct. 17.
"The purchase of some models could be absolutely free," Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars in Oklahoma enthused. "Is that about the coolest thing you've ever heard?"
The IRS also has ruled there's no limit to how many electric cars an individual can buy, the Journal reports, inspiring some enterprising investors to stock up on multiple carts while the federal credit lasts, in order to resell them at a profit later on.
"This golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama, when politicians dole out credits and loopholes for everything from plug-in cars to fuel efficient appliances, home insulation and vitamins," The Wall Street Journal concludes. "Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things -- like work and investment -- that aren't politically in vogue. If this keeps up, it'll soon make more sense to retire and play golf than work for a living."
Like the science fiction novel in which the new planet being settled by earthlings has only two species of animal, which get along just fine by simply eating each other, it sounds fine in theory. Try it for too long in the real world, though, and we suspect you might end up in the same place as those people who bought multiple houses on margin to flip them "because housing prices can only go up," or the guy who plowed his life savings into a chain letter and then sat there, waiting for the promised envelopes full of cash to start showing up in his mailbox ...