Photo via Car Gurus
Regardless of how you feel about Cash for Clunkers, the program sure is popular with the American public. The initial $1 billion in funding for the program--which allows individuals to obtain a rebate towards a new, more fuel efficient vehicle if they turn in an older carbon spewing model--was used up in just 5 days. The House of Reps approved an additional $2 billion last week, and Obama's Secretary of Transportation says he'll have to kill the program if the Senate doesn't do the same. Many Republicans, of course, smell an opportunity to attack.According to the New York Times:
If the Senate did not approve that $2 billion in new financing, "we would have to suspend the program next week," [Transit Secretary] Mr. LaHood said in an interview on the C-Span program "Newsmakers." He said that the administration would "continue the program until we see what the Senate does" but that he expected the current $1 billion pool for rebates to run out by the end of this weekend.American auto dealerships, who support the program, have already begun cancelling Cash for Clunkers related advertising, and there's reportedly a slew of other problems as well: the website with instructions on how the program works, Car.gov, has crashed repeatedly from overuse, and the dealers themselves must destroy the engines of the old cars before receiving their rebates. Such bumps in the road could be seen as necessary growing pains for such a new program. But Senate Republicans don't see it that way--they're (ridiculously) angling to paint Cash for Clunker's problems as a referendum on how all government programs fail, or something like that. The Times reports:
Republicans say the problems with the program are another strike against the Obama administration as it pushes for a speedy overhaul of the health care system that would involve a government-run insurance program. They argue that government involvement in any industry is a recipe for disaster.Hm. Wonder how they'd vote on removing coal and oil subsidies, then? Hate to break it to you boys, but the gov's kinda been involved in those industries for years--and didn't Exxon post record-breaking profits last year?
Anyhow, leading Republicans are somehow using the fact that Americans took to the popular program so readily and swiftly--exhuasting its funding by coming out to dealerships in unexpected droves--to make the point that the program has failed, and thus, by extension, so has Obama. This strikes me as preposterous. John McCain has even said he'll filibuster in the Senate to prevent additional funding. And Senator DeMint, of South Carolina, has, well, said this:
the "cash for clunkers" program was an example of the "stupidity coming out of Washington right now. The federal government went bankrupt in one week in the used-car business, and now they want to run our health care system," Mr. DeMint said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "This is crazy to try to rush this thing through again while they're trying to rush through health care, and they want to get on to cap-and-trade electricity tax. We've got to slow this thing down."Pssssst. DeMint, over here--I'll whisper this to you in private so as not to further embarrass you in public: the program went "bankrupt" because people like it--consumers like it; they get a new, cleaner car for cheaper. Delears and auto makers like it--they sell more cars. And yes, there are problems with the program--there often are with new programs. But the biggest one--that it doesn't have enough funding--can be solved if you vote to give it more. Or you could continue to use it as a half-baked argument against Obama's big government left-wing agenda. Though I'd recommend going with the giving people cheaper cars route, if it's reelection you're after, since yelling about Obama doesn't help dealers move cars, get polluting ones off the streets, or stimulate the economy. Just a thought.