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Oh, how easy it is to go viral on the Internet. All you have to do is be really, really bad at math. Or have an agenda. Here's how to play the game:

Start with a car that is already in the news and for some reason has turned into a political hot button. Something like, say, the Chevy Volt. Then, make up a completely bogus number about how much each one costs taxpayers and put it out there. Get Drudge involved. Sit back, relax and see your nonsense spread like wildfire.

This is exactly what James Hohman, the assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, did recently. You may have seen the headlines: "Each Chevy Volt Costs Taxpayers $250,000." "Are Volts for dolts? It's starting to look that way." "Report: Every Chevy Volt has over $250,000 in government subsidies." When we first saw this story, we looked it over and figured the math was so skewed that no one would dare repeat it. But then everyone did, so we now think it makes sense to throw some cold water on the whole issue.

Fact: Each Volt does not – emphatically not – have $250,000 in taxpayer subsidies in it. The way that Hohman got to this figure is by taking the amount of state and federal assistance used to make the car (through loans to build or update manufacturing facilities, for example) and then divide by 6,000. Why 6,000? Because that's around how many GM has sold thus far. It's actually 6,142 for 2011 as of the end of November, but exact numbers are not Hohman's strong suit. It's only by ignoring the fact that the government money spent in getting the Volt to market will influence way, way more than 6,000 units that you have a case. But this is not what is happening, and Hohman should know as much.

Thankfully, some voices of reason have spoken up to clarify the issue, and we wanted to join that chorus. We can only hope that the smackdown spreads as quickly as the hyperbole did. Anyone want to bet on this happening? Didn't think so.


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  • 117 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      So you claim his math is 'wrong', then show it's right but feel it portrays the issue incorrectly? Brilliant green logic.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Bush would rather not take credit for anything environmentally positive he did. Probably because the egg on the face of his administration is the fracking fluid exemption in the clean water act. All undisclosed, proprietary chemicals from oil corps being pumped into the ground water are obviously safe to be added into drinking water, right? :D
      • 3 Years Ago
      I actually rather doubt that "way, way more" than 6,142 Chevy Volts will be sold. Because, as noted above, Volts are for dolts. But of course, there are a lot of dolts, I'm afraid, and most seem to be involved in the green movement.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Green energy"? How do you figure when so called electric vehicles need to be plugged in to charge them and the electricity required for the charge comes mostly from coal? Verdict: there is no such thing as "green energy". It is something college professors pontificate about, who are of course, taxpayer subsidized themselves. The only solution for the USA and the world, is to drill for oil, mine for natural gas and coal and build nuclear power plants. Everything else is simply a ploy by statist/socialist politicians to redistribute wealth from energy industry to their political supporters/voters. The USA won't grow econmically until Barry Soetoro is out of offce. Why? Because Barry, as an Fabian Socialist, does not like economic growth; he believes the government class should decide how much money people and firms can make. But as more and more Americans are now dependent on government in one way or another, is there time enough to roll back this huge, bloated big brother state?
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 4 Months Ago
        You needed this. Here is what more drilling will get you. Spec We are increasing the supply . . . there is an oil boom in North Dakota right now. But increasing the supply doesn't necessarily mean the price comes down. The case is actually the reverse . . . the only reason we have been able to raise the supply is because the price went up thus making previous uneconomical deposits now economically viable. If the price goes down, the drilling in North Dakota will stop. It is sad that so many people just can't seem to understand this. Instead they live with a crazy myth in their heads that the only reason oil prices are high is because some dirty hippie won't let them drill enough. That just isn't true.
      superduckz
      • 3 Years Ago
      At the end of the day they'll never be able to overcome that perception (which in sales is more important than fact) that the car is a turd. Maybe another tweak on the drivetrain and a chassis redesign (along with several billion more in subsidies) might get it moving in the right direction. Sounds like the new model for the typical american product success story :-/ blech..
      harlanx6
      • 3 Years Ago
      OK, we know if we don't read this stuff we are uninformed, but if we do, we are misinformed. So how much do these things actually cost the tax payers, really? Anyone have a clue, or is what we read next just more misinformation? Who was it said there were 3 kinds of misinformation: lies, damn lies, and statistics? Sounds kind of like Harry Truman, and I think he was pretty smart. Spec, the earth has always had a changing climate, and I suspect it always will.
        Smith Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        "The earth (sic) has always had a changing climate" http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period.htm
        sirvixisvexed
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        I think that you don't need to ask, anytime you read something: "Well is what i'm reading just misinformation?!?!!" Use your head instead of thinking it's impossible to know whether or not something is correct or incorrect. If someone blurts out a statistic to you, make them walk you through the logics of how that number came to be, and then use your intelligence to decide the validity of their claim and do some of your own research about their numbers after the fact. "Who was it said there were 3 kinds of misinformation: lies, damn lies, and statistics? Sounds kind of like Harry Truman, and I think he was pretty smart." Nothing against Truman, but someone is not intelligent just because they refute. That quote should hold no water with anyone. As a general rule, saying "it won't work" or "people are stupid" or "people are liars" are very vague statements that everyone can agree with because everyone interprets the definitions of "stupid" on their own. To make a vague negative statement requires no intelligence, even if spoken in literary beauty. I had never heard of this nonsense story before this article, but if someone came in the room foaming at the mouth saying each Volt cost 250k in subsidies, and I said how?, and they said "Because the total of the loans given to GM divided by each Volt sold so far equals $250,000", i'd LMAO. Do I even need to say how ridiculous the thinking is behind that?
      OldSalt
      • 3 Years Ago
      Oh goody, now we get to nitpick the numbers as a distraction from the overwhelming failure of the Volt to sell. This is a nice distraction from the inconvenient fact that tax payer subsidies are going to relatively wealthy people who can afford this car. Its a distraction from the inconvenient fact that the Volt, like GM, is a market failure owing its existence to Barack Obama's policy of picking industrial winners and losers based mainly on politics as the Washington Post reported yesterday. In other words corruption is the driving force behind GM and the products it sells, or in the case of the Volt, products it can't sell.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      Building an upgrading Manufacturing facilities is NOT a cost to One Individual Vehicle. These could use these facilities to build other compact and midsize vehicles, possibly even gas-guzzling pickups.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        And reduces overall operating costs across the board - the extra money can be spent on other stuff as well (money that would have been spent on the volt might be making nicer interiors, coffee in the break room, etc).
      • 3 Years Ago
      The government bailout of GM has cost taxpayers over $16 BILLION so far, and more each time the stock drops further. If you capitalize that cost over 20 years and the number of cars GM will sell this year (about 40,000) the subsidy per car produced would be a staggering $50,000 each. And GM won't last 20 years, it will be bankrupt again in a very few years.
        j
        • 4 Months Ago
        Ken, did you write that GM will sell about 40,000 cars? Really, LOL Really...LOL
      • 3 Years Ago
      Car is crap. Wont be in production in three years.
      Dave D
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ok, so Drudge proves he's a total TOOL. Is anyone really surprised?
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 3 Years Ago
      To the obviously, very intelligent people below. Sure do wish the government would not have spent money on developing the Internet. Why weren't we fat and lazy instead of going to the moon? All that money waisted! Sure wish the government wouldn't have spent money on sewers and roads, even though some how the crap clearly did get into some peoples head. Gee, maybe we should do nothing. Let's keep using heaters to power ourselves down the road, who cares if they are 20 percent efficient? Less keep bankrupting this country for oil. Let's just keep crapping in our toilets without flushing them and see what happens. I am so concerned about our spending but really don't care if we send billions out of the country each year for oil and fund wars for oil. I want us to produce oil in the US, that's when gas will be cheap again, oh, I forgot we can only pump oil out of the ground if it is 100 dollars per barrel. Oh, I forgot the oil corps will just export any gas that they can't make a profit on here in the US. I just love oil corps, they are so good at shipping our natural resources over seas to make a profit, like they did with oil and want to do with natural gas. Please lets not even try to reduce our consumption of oil and let's just crap on America because were fat and lazy, don't worry the Chinese will innovate for us. By all means let's not take any risks to innovate, that's what America use to be about but now we must be slaves to the large corps and China. Let's just sit back like we have and let oil prices dictate if our economy can grow or not. Let's just let big oil, auto and all the large corporations tell us what there going to do, it's worked so far. Let's not change a thing, it easiest to do nothing.
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