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28 July 2006
SUVs for the Homeless

How to recycle your obsolete behemoth

The trend may not have reached Austin’s vehicle-choked freeways, but it’s happening everywhere else: The SUV craze is ending. Not, unfortunately, because Americans have recovered from their decades-long decline in automotive taste, nor because they’ve suddenly decided to stop pillaging the planet, but because $3 gasoline is socking them in the wallet.

GM and Ford are in financial trouble after staking their futures on vehicles that are not only the size of dinosaurs, but consume the same prehistoric diet (ancient plants, now decayed into petroleum). Now those ancient companies may themselves face extinction, superseded by fitter mammals such as Toyota and Honda. Though Americans still want to play soldier at home (so long as someone else’s kid does the real dying in Iraq), Hummers are getting smaller as their sales continue to disappoint. Some dealers have refused to take used SUVs in trade.

If you can’t trade in your suburban war wagon for something more normal-sized, what are you supposed to do with it?

Disposal isn’t a small problem. SUVs make up about half of all vehicles sold in recent years and, here in Texas (epicenter of the pave-the-planet mentality) they’re everywhere. Turning without looking into oncoming traffic, knowing they can crush all comers. Hogging spaces marked COMPACT CARS in parking lots. Rolling sideways off overpasses. Huge empty boxes under the shaky control of tiny suburban moms so engrossed in their cell-phone conversation they stay put at the green light.

Well, I have a modest proposal. Last year, a USA Today survey estimated the number of homeless Americans at 727,000. They certainly seem to be on the increase in Austin, where the city’s newest curse is squeegee men. Too many homeless, too many SUVs—time for the twain to meet.

Yes, let’s give the SUVs to the homeless. Of course, they won’t actually be driving the dorky, dangerous behemoths. They’ll just be parked. The average Expedition or Tahoe is far roomier than the makeshift tent or dank space under a bridge available to the typical homeless person. For the proceeds from a few squeegees, the typical homeless guy could afford enough electricity to power the vehicle’s electrical system, even at Austin Energy’s inflated prices. After all, it’s only 12 volts. And for the lucky ones this means access to nice stereos and even DVD players, even built-in cell phones. (For once, users will be enjoying those conveniences when not driving!)

Let’s say you’re a refugee from some Bush-aggravated disaster (Katrina, Enron, Lebanon). Which would you rather have: a miserable cot on the floor of the Astrodome or a cushy Tahoe with leather seats? It’s not often that a solution to the problems of our rapacious and heartless brand of capitalism is so obvious. Suburban greed and growth-is-great triumphalism have produced a surfeit of SUVs, while the poverty produced by a society that treats nonproductive persons, especially the mentally ill, as garbage has led to hundreds of thousands of homeless. By bringing the two together we can keep frightful and dangerous vehicles out of landfills and frightful and dangerous citizens off the streets. SUVs for the homeless: let’s start handing them out tomorrow!

Turn over another new leaf:
3 September 2005
The Bagh Easy

Bush’s Homeland Security apparatus springs a leak

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