John Stossel

I just got a free golf cart.

Actually, it cost me $6,490 -- but the dealer, Colin Riley of Tucson, Ariz., points out that there's a $6,480 federal tax credit on such vehicles. Riley runs ads that say: "FREE ELECTRIC CAR … !"

Some consumers probably assume it's a car-dealer scam, but it's not. It's an Uncle Sam scam.

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The tax code is outrageously complex and damaging in many ways, but it is made especially complex and damaging when congressmen use it "creatively" to manipulate us into doing things they deem "socially constructive." These are things that always bestow advantages on some politically connected manufacturers at the expense of others. After all, you were either planning to buy a golf cart or you weren't. If you were, the policy is unnecessary. If you weren't, you were induced to spend money on that product rather than something else. The unseen victim is whoever would have sold you the alternative product.

Such manipulation is at the heart of the entire "green" strategy.

The Wall Street journal reports that business is busy taking advantage of the tax credit. "Is that about the coolest thing you've ever heard?" Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars in Oklahoma said.

I thought "free" golf carts were outrageous enough that the publicity would embarrass Congress into killing the tax credit. I thought the media would be all over it. But even though Riley has received thousands of calls for cars -- and sold hundreds -- he hasn't seen much media attention. The Journal commented, "You can't blame a guy for exploiting loopholes that Congress offers."

In Florida, Tony Colangelo also sells subsidized cars. He said the golf-cart credit is -- good for politicians:

"It's all (about) going green. They want all those gas vehicles off the street. They'd rather have the electric than anything."

The golf-cart boom follows an IRS ruling that many golf carts qualify for the electric-car credit. A credit is better than a subsidy since you keep money the IRS would have taken. Still, it is an insidious form of manipulation used to benefit some forms of industry at the expense of others.

Colangelo says: "I never, in my entire life, got anything back from the government, and I've always paid taxes. Why shouldn't the people who worked hard for their money get something back?"

Because government shouldn't be in the business of taking money and giving it back! That just gives the venal cretins more power over our lives.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate