Cars and Classes

royalty The ruling ideology, distinctly including its academic manifestation, holds that automobiles are freedom machines and social equalizers. Cars-first transportation “unites [Americans] across class, racial, ethnic, and religious lines as few other aspects of our society can,” alleges Rutgers University transportation engineer James A. Dunn.

Of course, this familiar incantation is about as counter-factual as you can possibly get.

The claim, as DbC has explained before, doesn’t even hold water at the level of automotive usage. There, the rich enjoy the luxuries and choices, while the poor scrape, suffer, and go without. The distribution of cars, if one bothers to actually look at the uncontroversial facts, is one of the least equal categories of “consumer” goods.

The much more significant link between automobiles and social stratification, however, enters at the level of business ownership and the question of who benefits from selling cars. If you examine the institutional facts here, you discover that cars-first transportation is — literally — lifeblood to the investing class. Without it, the enormous privileges and prerogatives its members continue to enjoy, despite the times, would be in severe jeopardy.

If you doubt this link between cars and the upward flow of surplus wealth, consider the news that one of the major proponents of the latest, just-announced Obamian cave-in — the extension of greatly reduced estate tax rules — was none other than the National Association of Automobile Dealers. In the middle (or is it still the beginning?) of Great Depression III, you might think that NADA would favor measures to equalize income and wealth at least a little. After all, despite the inequities on the matter, it is commoners who buy most of the cars.

So why did NADA instead lobby for further extending the supply-side cap on estate taxes, a rule which overwhelmingly benefits the already-rich and, thereby, deprives the masses? As Automotive News reports:

WASHINGTON — In a victory for auto dealers and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on a tentative tax-cut package that would head off a huge increase in the estate tax.

The agreement yesterday, which still has to be approved by Congress, would set a maximum estate-tax rate of 35 percent for two years with an exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.

“This (proposal) will help restore consumer confidence and speed economic recovery,” the National Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today.

The NADA and other groups pushed for the estate-tax rate in the proposal as an alternative to the Obama administration’s plan earlier this year for a 45 percent rate with an exemption of $3.5 million per person.

The average net worth of an auto dealership was $2.2 million in 2009, according to NADA data, suggesting that most dealerships would not be subject to any estate taxes under yesterday’s proposal.

About half of all U.S. dealerships are second- and third-generation family businesses, NADA spokesman Bailey Wood said.

In other, more honest words, car dealers are capitalists, and, as such, they always place themselves first, because they can and are used to it and believe they deserve it. “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,” as one radically misinterpreted social critic once observed of the first principle of all overclasses, clearly remains the maxim of “the masters of mankind.”

This amazing piece of short-sightedness, of course, is but the tip of the iceberg. The automotive industrial complex remains a pillar of corporate capitalism and its drive to maximize and maintain overclass wealth flows. Automobile dealerships are small potatoes inside that order. As always, across the whole system, even when its own interests are close and easy to see, today always trumps tomorrow for our self-described “entrepreneurs.”

And, in the real world, that’s cars for you: Heedlessness machines and social polarizers.

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[…] propaganda-drenched as this one, it takes some work to find a mainstream shibboleth less true than the claim that cars-first transportation is an equalizing force in American […]

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[…] DbC has noted before, the facts are immensely against this familiar incantation, not only (and most importantly) on the […]