Last week, America had the joy of it's first Twitter town hall. Now don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Twitter, and I even believe that doing some type of town hall variant via Twitter is a great thing. However, regardless of the venue, President Obama is a master of making incoherent, false, and/or misleading statements in 16,000 characters or less, and last Wednesday was no exception.
One of those answers was in response to this tweet:
Out of his three and a half minute response to this question, someone on youtube picked out this highlight:
For the video impaired, let me summarize: Our dependence on foreign oil will only be solved by jamming unwanted products down the throats of the American people, regardless of the impact on employment and industry. That's right; it's all about increased fuel efficiency standards.
His response shows how little he actually knows about the auto industry, or worse, how much he intends on misleading the public.
For instance, he spends a fair amount of time making the case that the American people really want high gas mileage electric cars, not the same old gas guzzling SUV's. Except that's not true.
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Berquist said environmentalists have an overly optimistic view of Americans’ commitment to buying fuel-efficient vehicles.
The industry’s message to the White House “is that we need to preserve affordability, vehicle choice, jobs and safety as we improve fuel economy,” Berquist said, noting that a pickup truck outsold all 30 hybrids on the U.S. market combined in 2010.
One could assume that loading all of your construction materials into a Prius may not be optimal for most building contractors. But as usual, Obama knows best. The American people want electric cars that are the descendants of the great and powerful Yugo. We want them, but we apparently just don't realize it. That's what Obama and his team, in all their infinite wisdom, have decided for us anyway. And how will they force us to join them in this realization? As has been discussed here at length, by making gas mileage unattainable for SUV's and trucks. We'll choose the cars of green dreams when we have no other choice available, of that Obama is surely correct.
He also refers to the need to rid ourselves of "10 mpg cars." The only cars that I can think of that get gas mileage in that range are the gas guzzling limos which have doubled on Obama's watch. But hey, I don't judge. The President is looking to increase safety for visiting diplomats, and limos are cool. Then again, I'm not the one trying to force the American people to make sacrifices that I exempt myself from.
But the most disturbing thing about this answer is Obama's persistent belief that innovation can be forced. The old saying is "Necessity is the mother of invention," so Obama has taken this to the next logical (or illogical as it were) conclusion by adding, "yes, so what we need to do is manufacture necessity."
The truth is that the auto industry is well aware of the need to innovate, and they are doing it with appropriate speed and foresight. In fact, they have worked on so-called "green" technology for some time now and without the government holding a gun to their head. Auto manufactures have been producing green vehicles that actually appeal to consumers and in numbers that reflect the demand. Generally speaking, this is how free market dynamics works: you make the product that people want to purchase and in quantities that roughly fill the demand for that product.
In fact, President Obama had been one of those happy consumers having purchased his own Hybrid Ford Escape in 2007. That car only gets a combined fuel efficiency of 30 mpg. This falls dramatically short of the 56.2 mpg that he is proposing. Once again, I'm fine with his choices. I'm just irritated that he's not fine with mine.
But as I said, this all boils down to the view of necessity and innovation. The Obama administration is filled with people that have very little experience in the private sector. Their understanding of economics is based on theory and text books, not on real world experiences like success and failure. As such, they believe that when the need doesn't yet exist in such a way that will create innovation, the only sensible answer is for the government to step in and manufacture that need. This way of thinking is the basis for almost all of their policies.
Rahm Emmanuel famously said, "you never want a serious crisis go to waste," but he was only telling half of the story. The real mantra of this President is "crisis, whether real or manufactured, shall be the tool of change." And he will never waste an opportunity to use it.