Tag: cash for clunkers

Weekend Links

Dancing on Cash for Clunkers’ Grave

My colleague Chris Edwards called the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program the “Dumbest Program Ever.”  Given that Chris is familiar with more than a few dumb government programs, that’s quite a statement.

Today, the Washington Post provides more evidence that he might be right:

After the shopping binge inspired by the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” incentive program ended, U.S. auto sales plunged in September and the industry sunk back to the depths from which it started, figures released Thursday showed… The results raised doubts from some economists about the effectiveness of the $3 billion federal program as a stimulus.

Alan Blinder, a Princeton professor who was among the first to push an auto sales incentive program in the United States, doubted it provided much stimulus, in large part because it was in effect for only a month. “Most of the idea of any stimulus is to pull spending up from the future, but it doesn’t make any sense to design a program that only pulls up spending by one month,” said Blinder, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration. “Why in the world would you make it a one-month program? The Germans didn’t do that. The British do that. When I designed a mock version of this I was thinking of it as a one-year or two-year program.

So, Professor Blinder, what happens to auto sales after your one- or two-year program disappears? Regardless of whether the programs lasts one month, three months, one year, or three years, when the “free” money from Uncle Sam goes away, the result is going to be the same.

Milton Friedman said “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”  Let’s hope he’s wrong in the case of Cash for Clunkers.

Monday Links

  • Podcast: When Germany enacted their own “Cash for Clunkers” scheme, some of the old vehicles were illegally exported and sold out of the country before being destroyed. Could it happen here? Would that be so bad?

Another Dumb “Stimulus” Idea at Taxpayer Expense

Sigh.  Will the error never end?  If you listen to Washington, you would think that taking money from taxpayers, who otherwise would buy cars, homes, computers, and any number of other items, and giving it the same taxpayers to get them to buy cars is a great way to stimulate the economy.

Of course, the Keynesian hope is that Americans will spend rather than save, as if the best way to resolve a crisis  resulting from too much spending and borrowing is to encourage more people to spend and borrow more.  Alas, Washington has never met an expensive new program that it didn’t like.

In fact, the “Cash for Clunkers” program is an even dumber idea than most “stimulus” proposals.  Cato’s Alan Reynolds notes how easily the program can be manipulated to frustrate the objective of improving auto gas mileage.

Moreover, the initiative probably doesn’t increase auto sales.  Rather, it primarily rewards people who would have bought a new car anyway.  Explains Jeremy Anwyl in the Wall Street Journal:

Nearly everyone now seems to be praising “cash for clunkers”—the federal program recently launched that will credit you up to $4,500 to trade in your old car for a more fuel-efficient vehicle. President Barack Obama says the program “has succeeded well beyond our expectations and all expectations.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claims “this is the stimulus program that has worked better than any other stimulus program that was conceived.”

But cash for clunkers is also a program in limbo, having quickly run out of the $1 billion budgeted for it. Congress must now decide whether to let it die or whether to pump more money into it. So it’s time to ask if this program is really a good idea.

It is true that Internet car shopping activity, showroom traffic, and sales are all up, which is why the auto industry wants to keep the program going.

I love a good sales surge as much as anyone. But it’s not that simple. First, it’s not clear that cash for clunkers actually increased sales. Edmunds.com noted recently that over 100,000 buyers put their purchases on hold waiting for the program to launch. Once consumers could start cashing in on July 24, showrooms were flooded and government servers were overwhelmed as the backlog of buyers finalized their purchases.

Secondly, on July 27, Edmunds.com published an analysis showing that in any given month 60,000 to 70,000 “clunker-like” deals happen with no government program in place. The 200,000-plus deals the government was originally prepared to fund through the program’s Nov. 1 end date were about the “natural” clunker trade-in rate.

Let’s hope we can be saved from additional “stimulus” proposals which do far more to waste money than spur the economy.

Using ‘Cash For Clunkers’ Money to Buy a Muscle Car

chevelleABC News reports that the “Cash for Clunkers” scheme, a government program that offers a rebate to people who trade in vehicles with low gas mileage for more fuel efficient cars, is  gaining popularity:

The program is off to a fast start. In less than a week, 8,000 cars have been traded in for new ones – deals that might not have happened if Washington were not offering people $3,500 to $4,500 to get their aging gas guzzlers off the road.

In June, Cato senior fellow Alan Reynolds explained  how you can use that money to buy the muscle car or truck you always wanted:

Consider how easy it would be to game this giveaway program by using that $4,500 voucher to buy a big SUV or V-8 muscle car.

First of  all, with Chrysler and GM dealerships folding, it should be easy to buy a mediocre Chevy Cobalt or Dodge Caliber for about $10,000 more than the voucher.

What you do next is sell that boring econobox, even if you end up with $1,000 less than you paid — that still leaves you with $3,500 of free money, courtesy of taxpayers.

As this  process unfolds, the flood of resold small cars will make it even  harder for GM, Chrysler and Ford dealers to get a decent price for small cars, because of added competition from new cars being resold as used.

That’s their problem, not yours.

So, take the $9,000 net from reselling the crummy little car plus the $4,500 from Uncle Sam.  Then use that $13,500 to make a big down payment on a used Cadillac Escalade,  Toyota Tundra pickup or Corvette.

File this under “unintended consequences” (my own file is running out of space).