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Monday, October 5, 2009

One Month After Cash For Clunkers: No Change, Auto Sales Still Falls While Gas Consumption Doesn't

Cash for Clunkers was one the brain-child of Democrats who were looking to stimulate the economy while lowering carbon emissions. This was supposed to more environment-friendly programs designed to revive the flailing car industry:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared in August that, "This is the one stimulus program that seems to be working better than just about any other program."

Unfortunately, it did neither. Just as your humble pundit and others predicted, it was a complete failure:

If that's true, heaven help the other programs. Last week U.S. automakers reported that new car sales for September, the first month since the clunker program expired, sank by 25% from a year earlier. Sales at GM and Chrysler fell by 45% and 42%, respectively. Ford was down about 5%. Some 700,000 cars were sold in the summer under the program as buyers received up to $4,500 to buy a new car they would probably have purchased anyway, so all the program seems to have done is steal those sales from the future. Exactly as critics predicted.

Cash for clunkers had two objectives: help the environment by increasing fuel efficiency, and boost car sales to help Detroit and the economy. It achieved neither. According to Hudson Institute economist Irwin Stelzer, at best "the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day's gasoline use." Burton Abrams and George Parsons of the University of Delaware added up the total benefits from reduced gas consumption, environmental improvements and the benefit to car buyers and companies, minus the overall cost of cash for clunkers, and found a net cost of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.

So after Obama, Pelosi, and Reid spent $1.4 billion of our kids money, we're back to where we were before the spending folly.

The Wall-Street Journal article summed it up perfectly. So, I'll end the post with that:

In the category of all-time dumb ideas, cash for clunkers rivals the New Deal brainstorm to slaughter pigs to raise pork prices. The people who really belong in the junk yard are the wizards in Washington who peddled this economic malarkey.

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