SUV insanity

We had to grin last year when we heard about the guerilla anti-global-warming campaign that encouraged anonymous Americans to go around slapping bumper stickers on unsuspecting sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). “I’m changing the climate!” read the sticker. “Ask me how!”

The campaign—which features a Web site with downloadable sticker designs—promotes itself as a slightly devilish way to make SUV owners aware of (and embarrassed about) the fact that they drive vehicles that guzzle gas, increase air pollution, extend America’s dependence on foreign oil and produce the greenhouse gases that create global warming. “SUVs put out 43 percent more global-warming pollutants and 47 percent more air pollution than the average car,” states the site

Well, anti-SUV activists now face a new, even higher hurdle. Last week, the U.S. Congress—which already regulates SUVs as trucks, thus exempting them from adequate emissions standards—increased by fourfold the already hefty tax break that lets small-business owners deduct the cost of the largest SUVs on the road.

Part of the $350 billion “stimulus” plan for the economy passed by Congress and signed by President Bush last week, is a preposterous $100,000 tax break for people who buy SUVs that weigh more than 6,000 pounds when fully loaded with passengers and cargo. Though the original $25,000 deduction was set up in 1996 as a benefit for farmers, so they could buy tractors without being penalized by a luxury tax, it created an SUV loophole that was used by tens of thousands of people who had set up mini-corporations for tax purposes. Now that the deduction has ballooned to $100,000, accountants must be falling over themselves advising clients to take advantage—i.e., to buy that jumbo-sized SUV they’ve been lusting after.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, based in Washington, D.C., estimates the loophole will soak American taxpayers for about $1 billion for every 100,000 vehicles sold to businesses. The new provision covers the Chevrolet Suburban 2500, Hummer H1, Ford Expedition, Dodge Durango, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, GMC Yukon XL and dozens more.

Instead of rewarding SUV owners, Congress should be giving a break to those who choose fuel-efficient cars. But drivers of gas-electric hybrid cars only get a $4,000 deduction on their taxes.

Senator Barbara Boxer tried to get Congress to close the loophole, but her pleading fell on deaf ears. As the national debt ceiling reaches $6 trillion, its highest level in all of history, surely our country’s leaders could have come up with something in an economic-stimulus package besides encouraging pollution by giving a tax break to rich people who buy Hummers.

Folks, it’s time for more bumper stickers.