Another Car ‘Crisis,’ Another Big Government Opportunity (National Review, 05.10.10)

Posted by hpayne on May 10, 2010

Detroit — “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before,” Rahm Emanuel famously observed. So it was that the financial crisis brought us the $800 billion porkulus. The health crisis brought us government-run health care. And now Toyota’s sudden-acceleration “crisis” brings us a new bill expanding Washington’s power over the auto industry.

Last week’s hearing by the House Energy and Finance Committee set the stage for legislation increasing government intrusion in auto design, increasing NHTSA’s budget by $100 million, and increasing vehicle fees to pay for it.

Committee chair Henry Waxman said the bill’s aim is restoring “the faith of the driving public.” He might have restored their faith by informing them that vehicle fatalities are at record lows. But he’ll tax them $9 a car instead.

Waxman said the public is “severely rattled” by Toyota Motor Corp.’s recall of 8.5 million vehicles. Rattled? Customers flocked to Toyota dealers in April as sales rose 24 percent after gaining 41 percent in March.

Waxman says the millions will not enable NHTSA to pull cars off the road that are an “imminent danger.” There’s a red herring. The obscure problems that intermittingly plague Toyotas (and other cars) take months (in GM’s case back in 2001, two years to find the cause of windshield-wiper failure) to understand and analyze before an automaker can make an educated case for recall.

To make his case, Waxman called in two “safety experts.” The first, ex-NHTSA chief Joan Claybrook, is best known for mandating passenger-side airbags that killed 65 children. The second, Clarence Ditlow, infamously rigged GM pickups to blow up to prove that they had a tendency to blow up.

All in all, good enough for government work: cars won’t be safer, Trial Lawyers, Inc. will have a new profit sector, government will be bigger, and taxpayers will be poorer.

What a waste.

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