Crap for Clunkers

by Bob Lonsberry It’s not Cash for Clunkers – it’s Welfare for Car Buyers.

And it’s not “popular,” people are “greedy.” The fact that people are lining up for free money shouldn’t take anyone by surprise and the fact that a government welfare program has run out of money isn’t anything new.

Cash for Clunkers is a catastrophe.

In spite of the gleeful TV anchors and high-fiving politicians.

Cash for Clunkers is an effort by the Marxists to spread welfare addiction into the middle and upper classes, similar to a drug dealer handing out free samples to junior-high kids.

And the only thing better than letting it die right now would be to have never created it.

Here’s the background. In some sort of socialism-meets-environmentalism fantasy, the Democrats in Washington decided to kick in as much as $4,500 on trade-in for each vehicle getting 18 miles or less a gallon. If you bought a vehicle that got better gas mileage, and was brand new, the government promised the dealer it would reimburse him $4,500 for your old car.

That is significantly more than the value of these trade-ins and far more than they would normally bring.

To fund this program, the government borrowed a billion dollars in the name of the taxpayers. That money lasted about a week. Now the Democrats in Washington want to borrow two billion more dollars to prop up the give away.

It will be good money after bad.

Because the government shouldn’t take money from you to help your neighbor buy a car. The purchase of an automobile should not be subsidized by the government. It is absolutely none of the government’s business and none of the government’s role. If you want a new car, you should pay for it – you have no claim on the taxpayer to help foot the bill.

But the damage of Cash for Clunkers is a lot more than philosophical.

It advances the entitlement culture into new echelons of society. American socialism has long acculturated the poor into believing that the government must subsidize their every want. Now it is training those who can afford new cars that they also have claim on the public treasury. It furthers the process of addicting the society to the government teat.

Further, while it may help new-car sales this week, it hurts them in the future. Those who might otherwise be in the market for a new car in coming months might well hold off on their purchases, waiting for some new government give away. They might reason that if the government helps pay for cars in July and August it ought to help pay for them in October and November as well.

Another negative impact of Cash for Clunkers comes from what happens to the trade-ins after they are left at the dealership. Instead of going into the used-car market – which supplies the needs of many automobile buyers – the government requires that they be demolished.

That effectively takes a great many low-cost cars and trucks off the market. And who does that hurt? It hurts the used-car sellers, it hurts lower-income purchasers and it hurts first-time car buyers – the teen-agers and others whose means are limited.

It also hurts the charities which take old cars as donations.

Used cars – including so called “clunkers” – are an important part of the nation’s vehicle fleet. They provide employment for dealers and mechanics, and transportation for a great many, including the lower-income folks the Democrats claim to care so much about. And paying cash for a used car instead of going into debt for a new car is far wiser move for most families’ finances. Further, it is wasteful to destroy many of these “clunkers” which have tens of thousands of useful miles left in them.

Even the scrap yard and do-it-yourself folks lose under this scheme. The government forbids the reselling of any engine or drive train parts from these vehicles – everything must go to the crusher. That means that the people who go to the scrap yard to find a part to fix their vehicle will be out of luck. So this program involves the creation of new government debt and discourages individual thrift and economizing – which is exactly the recipe for disaster that has put our country in the trouble it’s in.

The final group shafted by this ill-conceived program are the foreign car buyers and the people who supply with used American vehicles. A great many serviceable American vehicles, when traded in here, are shipped overseas – often to places with limited means – where they provide good transportation for the people there.

Simply put, this program fails in every regard. Like all government interventions, it creates unimagined problems.

This particular program has also been a demonstration of fundamental government incompetence. As dealers tried to use the government computer system handling Cash for Clunkers, the system repeatedly failed, leaving dealership personnel sitting for hours at uncooperative computer screens. Imagine how things will be if Obama gets his wish and the government “reforms” health care.

Cash for Clunkers was a bad idea. The fact people lined up for free money does not change that. We’ve wasted a billion dollars. It would be insane to waste any more money on this program.

But that’s exactly what is going to happen.