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Wither the Muscle Car Again?

Unless you are living in a cave (or a compound like the one that was in the news in early April), it has become obvious that the American economy is in one of its periodic contractions. We have ridden a big, fat wave for a long time, and frankly the more pessimistic economists among us have suggested that an economic recession has been in the making for at least a decade. Whether the blame can effectively be laid at the feet of the current president, the opposing congressional party, human greed, or dumb luck (depending on your own personal filter of belief system), the truth is, times are getting tough for a bunch of folks.

Recessions and depressions happen for a number of reasons, but are exacerbated by the ‘sense of scarcity,’ in which people understandably stop spending for fear they may not be getting any more down the road. This in turn causes the money supply to become tighter and the cycle feeds itself downward. For Detroit and its dealers, it is always a very difficult storm to weather since new vehicle sales are one of the first areas hit when a recession starts.

In my opinion, the media to blame for some of this. Those suffering from what has been derisively termed ‘Bush derangement syndrome’ would love nothing more than to see the Texan leave the White House under a cloud of disaster; members of the fifth column who meet this description will twist facts to fit their agenda. While both sides are willing to manipulate data, I perceive the Democrats are much more invested in the idea of debacle, so they can ‘fix it.’ Now, before the mail starts coming my way, I’ll also admit that Mr. Bush didn’t do us car guys any favors with recent changes to the EPA and CAFÉ standards.

The EPA was the child of another Republican president in an era of ecological ‘sky-is-falling’ Chicken Littlism; Richard Nixon signed on to create this agency when the news was filled with stories of DDT, lead poisoning, and Cleveland’s rivers burning. The EPA was given real authority to go get the ‘bad guys,’ corporate polluters who didn’t give a damn about where they tossed their waste. But it also immediately became an office filled with practicing ideologues whose purpose was anathema to industrial business in general. Companies were (and are) terrified of the power the EPA was given to fine and punish, and Bush recently added even more authority to that body. Ever wonder why the steel industry and oil refining business is so retrenched today? Look at the level of regulation involved to get anything done, the dearth of potential profit, and you can begin see why it isn’t worth the effort.

So what does all this have to do with cars? Well, as we know, the environmental movement has a new high priest, Albert Gore Jr., and a new code of ethics. For years, Unocal crushed old cars to get ‘pollution credits’ in California; take the guzzlers away for good and we won’t sniff your smokestack too much. Gore, who is rumored to have pocketed a cool 100 million since leaving the scandal-tainted Clinton White House, is apparently invested in companies selling similar ‘carbon credits,’ penances in the druidic religion of global warming.

Today, instead of crushing an old car, guilt-ridden liberals and overt polluters can buy the right to pollute at the same level as they always have by agreeing to pay for some sort of ecologically-friendly project someplace else. Drive an SUV – purchase forgiveness by planting a tree in Tibet, or Toledo, or Tacoma. How convenient for the rich, who write a check to feel good and help buy more jet fuel for Mr. Gore’s preferred means of transport.

Meanwhile, those of us with smaller wallets but a penchant for speed and mechanical excellence are watching this all unfold with some trepidation. Just like when other authoritarians take power, we wonder how soon it may be before they are coming to our door and asking for our ‘papers,’ our proof that we have the right to pollute? ‘That old car with the big engine there yours? Well, because you own it, we are tacking a fat surcharge on your taxes to be invested in saving the planet. Actually, a bill I just got passed gave it all for the lab research at my son’s Ivy League college, a breeding study of the striped snails of Sonora.’

These are mostly the same people who have pushed for the wonderful switch to ethanol as a fuel, in which we mandated (not suggested) that we will take a source of food and convert it to motor use. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the end game has made agricultural products skyrocket pricewise across the globe (and the price of petroleum on the world market has kept time, almost doubling in price from 50.00 to over 100.00 per barrel since the Democrats took over Congress in 2006). Yeah, President Bush signed that one, too.

In the end, our responsibility to take care of the environment is important (like don’t pour motor oil down the storm drain), but when bad science is coupled with pseudo-religious fervor, we are all in danger. The 2008 Dodge Challenger is on its way to market, as is the new Camaro, but how they last may not have as much to do with demand as it does with the ideological outlook of the people we send to Washington.

For those of us with old cars, we very fortunately have SEMA (and new honcho Doug Evans) keeping an eye on what the Beltway brood is up to, but we must be vigilant to act when they ask us to notify our representatives about pending legislation. It would not take much to end the horsepower party as we know it if the powers-that-be can push hard for ‘change.’

Unfortunately, this religious belief in global warming has proponents in both political parties. The three candidates presently vying for the title of President for the next four years have all expressed some accommodation toward this, despite the fact the last ten years have shown no scientific proof of ‘global temperature change’ being accelerated. My feeling is that, car guys or not, we will all need to be paying close attention to what our state and federal governments are threatening to accomplish.
OK, OK, I’ll take off the tinfoil hat…  

Stunkard can be found here at MoparMax once a month, or all the time over at www.quartermilestones.com.

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