Tax Prof noted the Wall Street Journal editorial titled "Cash for Clubbers" (Oct. 17, 2009), which suggests that "thanks to President Obama's stimulus plan", the government is now "paying Americans" to buy golf carts. The Journal notes that golf cart dealerships are enticing people in with the credit (which only applies to certain road-worthy carts) and that this "golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama" when "politicians dole out credits" and "Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things."
The Journal is playing somewhat fast and loose with the credit and with who is responsible. As to responsibility, it was passed before Obama tood office, so surely it cannot "perfectly illustrate" Obama's policy. And the "politicians [who] dole out credits" have been members of the GOP during its majority control, because they argue for tax cuts of all kinds, including credits that are clearly unnecessary (the R&D credit, for example, that I think the Wall St. Journal has defended as one of those "extension" provisions that it claims is vital to competitiveness). The Republicans passed many of these boondoggle loopholes during the time they had control between Reagan and Bush with the underlying premise that tax cuts generate more tax revenues, while at the same time they had to raise the debt limit so that the government could borrow money to fund the tax cuts and the deficit grew by unprecedented amounts. While the Democrats have been far from perfect on these matters (e.g., including many more tax provisions than I think they should have in the stimulus bill, compared to direct spending on good projects in the public interest), at the same time Democrats have, to their credit, at least acknowledged that there is a cost to doling out credits--that tax cuts do not magically deliver more money instead of less and that we likely will need some tax increases after this long gorging on tax cut after tax cut that hasn't delivered either new jogs or high government revenues.
Tax Prof has a well thought out piece by Sue Altmeyer on the Journal piece. She notes that the IRS ruling that golf carts may qualify if they are street-legal dates to 2000 (put out in the early months, that is, of the George W. Bush administration by the business friendly Bush IRS). Similarly, the credit (section 30D) was enacted in 2008 (and doesn't permit the vehicle to be bought for resale, thus undoing the scheme discussed in the Journal whereby a Floridian self-styled "the Golf Cart Man" promises a special boon by combining purchases with his repurchases. Further, she notes that Notice 2009-54 (that's under Obama) states that the motor vehicles covered are supposed to be manufactured for primarily street use. And that notice also suggests that you should make sure that the credit being advertised by golf cart salesmen really applies by asking them for an IRS acknowledgement. The 2009 stimulus bill did make some changes (at whose urging?).
Hat tip to Tax Prof and thanks to Sue Altmeyer for a cogent piece.