[Please see update below.] Joe Nocera -- disclosure: longtime friend -- has a column in the NYT today about the "controversy" over the Chevy Volt. The controversy is whether this ambitious hybrid car, which can get very high mileage per gallon of gas (~ 200 mpg), illustrates Obama-administration overreach for industrial planning, enforced conservationism, and across-the-board liberalism gone mad.
As Nocera points out, Fox News has repeatedly presented it that way. There was even a Volt-ish allusion in some of the argument against the Obama health care plan before the Supreme Court last week. If the government can force me to buy medical care, why shouldn't it force me to buy not just broccoli but also an electric car? After all, as former Solicitor General Paul Clement pointed out in his anti-Obamacare argument, other people's failure to buy electric cars makes their price higher, by eliminating economies of scale. Why isn't that just like people who decide not to buy health insurance?
You can go to the transcript to see how Justices Sotomayor and Breyer dealt with that analogy. But what's the truth about the Volt itself? Nocera could have said in his column: "Critics claim that the Volt is a governmental boondoggle that typifies an administration bent on imposing its do-good agenda on the nation. Administration spokesmen deny the charges." Here is what he actually says:
What is the connection between President Obama and the Volt? There is none. The car was the brainchild of Bob Lutz, a legendary auto executive who is about as liberal as the Koch brothers. The tax credit -- which is part of the reason conservatives hate the car -- became law during the Bush administration.
"It's nuts," said Lutz, when I spoke to him earlier in the week. "This is a significant achievement in the auto industry. There are so many legitimate things to criticize Obama about. It is inexplicable that the right would feel the need to tell lies about the Volt to attack the president."