Fox bends its definition of “rich” in order to slam the Chevy Volt

Remember earlier when Fox argued that households making $250,000/year aren't really rich? Well, turns out that they're not rich if you're talking about raising their taxes. But they are rich if you're talking about the Chevy Volt -- in fact, they're “very rich.”

This morning, Fox & Friends criticized General Motors' forthcoming plug-in hybrid and the federal subsidies supporting its production. Stuart Varney said that because the Volt is priced at $41,000 (before the $7500 tax credit), “this is wealth redistribution in reverse” :

VARNEY: Who's going to buy them? OK, you've got the study from Deloitte Consulting, they say the people who are going to buy them are young, very high income individuals, $200,000 plus per household. Those are the people who can afford it. Those are the people who are ideologically inclined to go and buy it. Now, think about it. This car, even at $41,000 a pop, is heavily subsidized. So if it is young, urban, very rich people who buy it -


VARNEY: This is wealth redistribution in reverse. This is average taxpayers subsidizing the purchases of very rich people, $200,000 income per household.

During the segment, Fox nailed home the point with on-screen text that stated: “CHEVY 'VOLTSWAGEN': A PEOPLES' CAR FOR THE WEALTHY?” and “GOING GREEN JUST FOR THE RICH?” and “HELPING OUT THE RICH.” OK, so households making $200,000 are rich. That's settled then.

Carlson also said that the “federal tax breaks” for the Volt are “paid for by the very people who can't actually afford the car.” Which is interesting since Varney is the first one to tell you that the top income earners pay most of the taxdollars and “half” of America “pays nothing.”

During the segment, Varney went on to claim that “the government,” motivated by an aversion to oil, pushed General Motors “into producing an electric vehicle” :

VARNEY: [T]he government does not like oil. It does not like gasoline. So it's got a car company of its own called General Motors, so it pushes it into producing an electric vehicle. Regardless of cost. This is a politically correct car for politically correct people. And you will have to subsidize it."

Varney says the “government does not like oil,” but keep in mind that the federal government has consistently provided massive subsidies for traditional fossil fuels. And, his suggestion that the government forced GM to make the Volt after it took over the company is just false. Here's a New York Times article from October 2007 -- back before the recession began and long before Bush or Obama ever conceived of bailing out the auto companies -- about GM's plans to start producing the Volt in 2010.

Fox also claimed that the “true cost” of each Volt is $81,000, citing the math of "Doctor Zero," a member of the conservative blogging community, aka, Fox & Friends' research team. But Fox & Friends actually can't even manage to accurately channel the blogger's argument. See if you can make sense of this graphic:

The graphic suggests you get the “true cost” by adding the $7,500 federal subsidy available to consumers purchasing the Volt, but obviously, this doesn't add up.

In fact, “Doctor Zero” added the Recovery Act grants GM received for the production of battery packs, the construction of manufacturing facilities, and the development/demonstration of electric vehicles -- plus the stimulus funds awarded to Compact Power Inc. to make electric-vehicle batteries in Michigan -- to get “almost four hundred million dollars in federal subsidies” that “were pumped directly into the design and production of the Volt.” To get the “per car” cost, the Doc divided $400 million by 10,000, the number of Volts GM plans to build just in 2011, but not the 45,000 planned for 2012 or any following years, and added the retail cost of the car.

It's certainly worthwhile to make note of the taxpayer dollars that the goverment awarded to GM to advance electric cars. But it just doesn't translate well to a “per car” cost. It's misleading for a couple of reasons (besides the fact that it stumped Fox's esteemed graphics department.) For one, the Compact Power plant will reportedly make batteries for Ford as well, so why should all of their stimulus funds be included in the Volt cost? The equation also assumes that the value added to research and facilities from the stimulus investment is strictly limited to the first year of production. Seems pretty arbitrary. But we look forward to Fox reporting in 2012 when the “true cost” of the Volt drops dramatically.