Holman Jenkins notes that this is all pretty obvious, but that the apostle of "change" has gone along with the same old political nonsense. Trouble is that it is now way beyond nonsense as taxpayers own the companies that politicians are undermining.
Let's face it: CAFE has done nothing to reduce gasoline usage or oil imports (car owners just end up driving more miles). In 34 years, not a whisper of testimony has come from any quarter that the policy actually works. It only causes U.S. manufacturers to make small cars and dump them at a loss on the public, subsidized with the profits of pickups and SUVs.
Detroit doesn't have to match the transplants in wages and benefits, but CAFE distorted what would have been the Big Three's natural path of adaptation to the natural fact of growing diversity in the marketplace with the arrival of foreign manufacturers. Detroit would have focused on market segments where it could compete profitably even with its higher labor cost -- on bigger, pricier vehicles where labor cost is a lower share of value added.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama, that freethinker, took to the CAFE fraud like a bat to a belfry. He signaled his arrival on the presidential stage by sternly demanding higher mileage standards early in his campaign. The "change" candidate who might have broken with a generation of political cant about CAFE instead appropriated the fraud for his own careerist purposes.
That tangled web now catches him in a fatal contradiction as he pours tens of billions of taxpayer dollars into the failed business model that CAFE foisted on Detroit.