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The Hybrid Hoax

They're not as fuel-efficient as you think.

11:00 PM, Jan 19, 2006 • By RICHARD BURR
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Taxpayers should. The federal government subsidizes hybrid fashion statements with tax breaks that benefit the rich. The average household income of a Civic hybrid owner ranges between $65,000 to $85,000 a year; it's more than $100,000 for the owner of an Accord. The median income of a Toyota Prius owner is $92,000; for a Highlander SUV owner $121,000; and for a luxury Lexus SUV owner it's over $200,000.

This year the government will offer tax credits for hybrid purchases ranging up to $3,400, with owners getting a dollar-for-dollar benefit on their tax forms. This beats last year's $2,000 tax deduction, which amounted up to a $700 benefit, depending on the driver's tax bracket.

JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, liberals criticized the Bush administration for allowing professionals to get tax breaks on large SUVs if they were purchased for business purposes. But evidently it's okay to subsidize under-performing hybrids.

Perhaps with more technological advances, hybrids will some day deliver on their fuel economy promise and truly be worth the extra cost. But the tax credits have become just one more welfare program for the wealthy. Let the fast-growing hybrids show that they can pay for themselves.

After all, when Snoop Dogg makes a fashion statement by buying a Chrysler 300 C with a Hemi engine, taxpayers aren't footing part of the bill.

Richard Burr is associate editor of the Detroit News editorial page.