At least, if you use the rule of thumb that any time you ask a question in a headline then the answer is always going to be 'no:' "The government has spent a lot on electric cars, but was it worth it?" And the answer to the question is no in this case, too. There are three ways that the Washington Post (note that I am not criticizing WaPo article author Charles Lane, here: he's obviously figured it all out already) could have worked that out ahead of time, in fact; all it had to do was look more closely at the title.
- "The government." That's your first clue that something went wrong here. I'm not a hard-shelled libertarian; I actually think that there are things that we need a government for, like killing our enemies and making sure that a pound in Bangor weighs the same as a pound in San Diego (standardized weights and measures are things that you don't miss until they're gone). But when you're going into the economic sphere, well, duplicating the success of the free market is something that is far outside of the comfort zone, or basic competency level, of your average government bureaucrat.
- "Spent a lot." It's a common mistake to think that putting X dollars into a government program will consistently produce Y results. Sometimes you get Y. Sometimes you get Y/3. Sometimes you get nothing. And, unfortunately, sometimes after you get nothing you try to fix the problem by dumping another X's worth of money into the mix. Do this enough times and people start saying that you've "spent a lot."
- "Electric cars." This one is noteworthy for what it doesn't say. Basically, it was never exactly spelled out by the government why it wanted electric cars. Or, rather, the real reason why the government wanted electric cars: I mean, we all understand that there was going to be no reduction in pollution, yes? The energy that would be needed to run these things has to come from somewhere, and it almost certainly would be gotten by burning other things. But I suppose that the government couldn't just come out and say A lot of people who were useful to us during the election wanted some of that sweet, sweet taxpayer money. If for no other reason than we would have ripped into them for it.
But, hey. At least the Washington Post is letting explanations surface now. Admittedly, it's far too late to save taxpayers any significant amounts of money, but what can you expect from a crony media?