In the War on Cars, the Left is Winning

Detroit serves as a cautionary tale warning of long-term liberal leadership. As Michigan’s governor prepares a state takeover of the terminally troubled city, many blame the short-sighted policies of the local Democratic machine. To be sure, runaway pensions, red ink and union obstinance have helped hollow out the once-mighty Motor City. But liberal antagonism to the city’s economic engine has worsened the decline not only for Detroit, but the entire state.

As long as we’ve spoken of the American Dream, the automobile has served a primary role in its mythos. Zora Arkus-Duntov, the designer of the Chevy Corvette, said, “in our age where the average person is a cog wheel who gets pushed in the subways, elevators, department stores, cafeterias . . . the ownership of a different car provides the means to ascertain his individuality to himself and everybody around.”

Since Henry Ford’s first Model T rolled off the Detroit assembly line, the car has represented the individual and freedom. Finally, the city dweller could chart his own direction outside of a subway or trolley car and the farmer could explore beyond the reach of his horse and buggy.

But in the Age of Obama, the individual is less important than the group. Hence the push for light rail, high-speed rail, unrealistic mileage standards and emission mandates, rising energy prices, and even the state-ordered destruction of perfectly good automobiles. In the Long March toward the bright progressive future, even transportation needs to be collectivized.

Although most Americans still want a shiny new car in their garage, that once-common desire is increasingly out of reach. According to a new study, only one city in the nation has a median income that can afford a median-priced new automobile. Gee, I wonder which city that is:

The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales.

According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments, the median income there running $86,680 a year…

Affordability has been a matter of growing concern for the auto industry in recent years as prices have continued to move upward. Even the most basic of today’s cars are generally loaded with features that were once found on high-line models a few decades back – if they were available at all – such as air conditioning, power windows, airbags and electronic stability control, as well as digital infotainment systems. They also have to meet ever tougher federal safety, emissions and mileage standards that have added thousands to the typical price tag.

As Detroit’s long-suffering residents wonder what happened to their American Dream, perhaps they should remember which political party watched over the destruction. If they work hard and save up long enough, maybe their children can afford a nicer car than the one mom and dad were able to buy.

Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.