Living in San Francisco, were I to decide I want a car, I’d spend about $250/month for the lease, another $100 for the insurance, plus another, say, $50 for gas and upkeep. Figure then about $400 per month.
Driving around San Francisco and the surrounding areas, all of which offer top-notch commuter public transit to the city, you are almost guaranteed to get into a traffic jam. Where you will sit, curse, feel superior to the other drivers, and pollute yourself and the air around you.
I bike to work, which is a wonderful way to feel superior to everyone, and if it is raining I take public transit. If I am drunk and the hour is late, I take a cab. If I want to get away, I rent a car. My quarterly transportation bills probably runs about $150. This means that I am better than you drivers.
But now let’s talk about our glorious leader, President Obama. Admitting that I pity the poor auto worker specifically, and the irreversible decline of the rust belt generally, I’m somewhat relieved that the American auto industry, we’ve now learned, won’t be bailed out. It is frustrating to see that people that make an inferior product and who refuse to modernize still continue to be quite literally bailed out by the government. Well, no more. And while I’m not an economist, I still think “good.”
Among the points Obama mentions in a speech this morning (encourage mergers, speed up government auto purchases), one point stands out: Launch a P.R. campaign to let Americans know about a tax deduction they’ll receive if they buy a car this year
This is where things get tricky. I believe with the full force of my convinction that this country must pivot away from this addiction to automobiles. Tax the hell out of gas and fund efficient rail. And while, again, it is very sad to see the decline of so many great cities in the upper Midwest and Appalachia, we must move into the 21st century and admit that caring for our planet and our workers does not have to be mutually exclusive. Therefore, and realizing this is far from black and white, let’s at least pause to consider that maybe it isn’t ideal to reward people for buying more cars.