Surprise! The Cash-For-Clunkers Program Is a Clunker! Now With Special Authorial-Intent Clarifier!

The much-hyped cash-for-clunkers program—passed as part of an "emergency" supplemental bill to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (don't even get me started)—is supposed to take old, gas-guzzling jalopies off the road by offering folks as much as $4,500 to trade up to new, cleaner cars.

The program became law in late June and expires on November 1. The pre-cog verdict?:

"It's a very small number of people that this plan will end up helping," Wachovia senior economist Mark Vitner said....

On the surface, the program would seem to have a triple benefit: the consumer saves a chunk of money, the suffering auto industry gets a boost in sales, and the environment can breathe just a little bit easier.

But there are restrictions. The vehicle being turned in must have been made after 1984 and have a fuel economy rating of less than 18 miles per gallon. Vehicles traded in will be scrapped, so the owner cannot get any money from a trade-in or sale on top of the government payment.

The vehicle must also have been insured continuously by the same owner for at least a year and the size of the payment is linked to the relative mileage improvement of the new vehicle. The program ends on November 1.

The $4,500 is a top limit, by the way, and not all participants will get that amount. And you've got to be ready to purchase a new car (not a used one with better mileage) as well, among many other conditions that make this about as usable as frequent-flier miles on Thanksgiving weekend. More here. Official government site, complete with unironic '70s design and frustrating, on-demand FAQs, right here.

Does your piece of crap qualify? My 1998 Buick Century does not, if that gives you any indication of the far-reaching sweep (not) of this program. Go here to see if your jalopy, like yourself (when discounted for future tax increases and mandatory national service), is worth more dead than alive.

Bonus points for whoever can name which game show gave out "clunkers" as gag gifts.

Update: Re: questions in the comments section about whether I was lamenting the ineffectiveness of the program or its general crapitude: It's the latter! This is precisely the sort of petty, poorly planned program that showcases the general (though not complete) inepitude of government.

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  • ||

    Let's Make a Deal?

  • ||

    High Rollers

  • Xeones||

    I will not be surprised to find out that the cost to administer Cash for Clunkers is far, far higher than the amount actually distributed by it.

  • Tomcat1066||

    This also has a negative impact on the poor, since it scraps the cars that they can most likely afford, thereby driving up prices for those "clunkers" that are left and forcing them to buy even older cars in worse condition.

  • Spoonman||

    Tomcat1066, the poor should just use public transportation. In a green America, only politicians will have private cars.

  • Billy!||

    We're complaining about this? I wish we had more programs that nobody could take advantage of.

  • Mike in PA||

    Oh yeah... I remember High Rollers

  • ||

    Nick, I know you don't think this, but you make it sound as if the problem with the program is that it doesn't help enough people. Even if legislators and program executors made the most intelligent decisions about which cars qualify, the whole thing would still be the broken window fallacy writ into law.

  • WWJGD||

    I am dumping my 97 Crown Vic thanks to this program...hopefully. I'll look around for a nice bumper sticker saying "Thanks Obama voters for subsidizing my new car :D"

  • ||

    I like the reason excerpt from the Heinlein Novel that was posted in June...

  • !</a></||

    Marc,

    That is sort of how it read to me too. This stupid program shoul have never seen a printer or a vote.

  • ||

    ... is your objection to the current Clunker program:

    A. It's a fundamentally flawed idea -- will never work.

    B. It's a reasonable idea -- just poorly implemented.

    (??)


    Based on above answer, you recommend:

    A. Abolishing any and all government "Clunker" progams.

    B. Modifying program with more effective procedures (.. please specify).

    _____

    [note that your above objections to the current Clunker program merely 'speculate' as to how the program is working... with no facts at all about its failure/success so far]

  • ||

    I think it's best to read this as a "They can't even implement their bad ideas" piece.

    Criticizing my neighbor for doing a bad job cleaning up after his dog is not a implicit endorsement of the dog shitting in my yard in the first place.

  • Rhywun||

    Um, the fact that this handout to undeserving car owners is going to be less widespread than we thought sounds like a feature, not a bug to me.

  • Tomcat1066||

    Spoonman: True, but a lot of communities don't have public transportation, or are like mine where public transportation only runs for certain hours which may or may not correspond with your work hours ;)

  • ||

    ROTFL, is anyone actually surprised by this?

    RT
    www.privacy-tools.tk

  • Rhywun||

    Not one of your best efforts, "Jim Stewart".

  • Spoonman||

    Tomcat, I was kidding.

    Criticizing my neighbor for doing a bad job cleaning up after his dog is not a implicit endorsement of the dog shitting in my yard in the first place.Also, this. The best argument against government programs is that they can't even achieve their (questionable) goals.

  • Spoonman||

    Tagfail.

  • creech||

    Of course it worked. Just wait until the bragging/vote-buying starts in 2010. Any half-brained congressman who voted for this will spin it like he saved the environment single-handedly. One hopes for a Libertarian candidate who can get in a debate with said half-brain and expose the lie. But then I'm way overly optimistic.

  • Rhywun||

    In a green America, only politicians will have private cars.



    We're headed that way whether deliberate or not.

  • SugarFree\'s neighbor\'s dog||

    Hey everybody, watch this!

  • ||

    i second the bumper sticker, though i want one that says "Thank you tax payers for paying 4500 dollars for my crappy K5 blazer that is only worth 2000".

    Oh wait, too long...

  • ||

    Hey everybody, watch this!

    Worst YouTube Ever.

  • Tomcat1066||

    Spoonman: Yeah, I got it...I just did a piss-poor job of showing I got it ;)

  • ||

    Can we just call the whole appropriations bill for Afghanistan and Iraq "cash for clunkers"?

    The best argument against government programs is that they can't even achieve their (questionable) goals.

    Unfortunately, that argument is all too often taken to mean that we need more funding and a bigger staff in order to achieve the goal.

  • Jordan||

    I am dumping my 97 Crown Vic thanks to this program...hopefully. I'll look around for a nice bumper sticker saying "Thanks Obama voters for subsidizing my new car :D"



    Slap that sticker on a brand new Hummer.

  • ||

    What do I care about this? I make too much money for all this crap despite the majority of that income going to pay the school loans that made it possible to earn that income in the first place. So I'm broke, but supposedly wealthy.

    I didn't get a stimulus check last year, instead getting my taxes reworked so that I owed more. I don't qualify for the $8,000 first time home buyer credit, so I'm at an $8,000 disadvantage in the marketplace. And my 2003 japanese automobile isn't a clunker.

    Any thing else the government wants to help me with? Every time they help us, I get further and further behind. Thanks, government. Love you.

  • jnw||

    I just got my $3500.

  • ||

    The $4,500 is a top limit, by the way, and not all participants will get that amount. And you've got to be ready to purchase a new car (not a used one with better mileage) as well, among many other conditions that make this about as usable as frequent-flier miles on Thanksgiving weekend. More here. Official government site, complete with unironic '70s design and frustrating, on-demand FAQs, right here.



    Don't worry, the bureaucrats who administer this piece of shit will draw an undeserved paycheck. It's all good.

  • ||

    Beat the Crusher?

  • ||

    The only people I don't hear pissing and moaning about the crappy CFC program are the ones with $3500 or $4500 in their pockets. The first complaint seems to be "No fair...my car doesn't qualify!"

    I'd rather spend a billion helping my deserving (isn't almost everyone these days?) neighbors get a new rig, and helping my local car dealer stay in business, than a trillion providing more hefty bonuses for a handful of undeserving (these are the exceptions) bankers and Wall St. thugs.

  • ||

    I'd rather spend a billion helping my deserving (isn't almost everyone these days?) neighbors get a new rig, and helping my local car dealer stay in business

    You don't have a billion dollars, sweetheart. So it's not your money being spent. It's pretty easy to spend other people's money, though, isn't it?

  • Jordan||

    I'd rather spend a billion helping my deserving (isn't almost everyone these days?) neighbors get a new rig, and helping my local car dealer stay in business, than a trillion providing more hefty bonuses for a handful of undeserving (these are the exceptions) bankers and Wall St. thugs.



    How about neither?

  • David Pinto||

    My car, a 1999 Audi A6 qualifies. However, I can get $2000 more (according to Edmunds) in a private sale.

  • ||

    I think "Treasure Hunt" used to give out "clunks," but I don't know who gave out "clunkers." Please tell us!

  • Classic Car Collector||

    If your "clunker" is in good condition, it's worth it to keep it and do some work on it because it's value will increase as a collector car 10 years down the road.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Even if legislators and program executors made the most intelligent decisions about which cars qualify, the whole thing would still be the broken window fallacy writ into law.

    Yep. And even with the $4500 discount and the $750 in gas savings, every sucker who takes this deal will wind up spending more per year for the simple fact that they will now have another $200 a month payment that they don't have today. And that ignores the increased insurance cost and increased registration fee in some states.

    The only thing stupider than a Democrat is two Democrats.

  • ||

    The Gong Show

  • Tomcat1066||

    The only people I don't hear pissing and moaning about the crappy CFC program are the ones with $3500 or $4500 in their pockets. The first complaint seems to be "No fair...my car doesn't qualify!"

    My car DOES qualify. It's still an idiotic and wasteful program that only helps those who can afford a new car in the first fucking place, and also manages to help deplete the availability of cars for those of lower incomes...you know, the ones who probably need more help?

    I'd rather spend a billion helping my deserving (isn't almost everyone these days?) neighbors get a new rig, and helping my local car dealer stay in business, than a trillion providing more hefty bonuses for a handful of undeserving (these are the exceptions) bankers and Wall St. thugs.

    Here's a thought. Let's just let everyone keep their share of that $1.01 trillion and let things work themselves out.

  • ||

    Epi, I pay my share in taxes so it's my money, too. And I don't appreciate everything it gets spent on, including some spending that benefits you, your family, your state, etc. more than me and mine. I do try to contact my congressional reps once a year to question legislation I don't like, and to suggest changes I would like to see. Like it or not, we're all in this together.

    My neighbor and I don't see eye to eye politically, but we help each other out and look after one another's property. I hope he gets $4500 to help replace the ugly clunker in his garage. And I hope his grandson comes back safely from Iraq and can use our tax dollars on a new car rather than a new limb. Unlike the war, at least the Cash For Clunkers program has an end date.

  • Phil||

    My bad. The bad prize on Treasure Hunt was "klunk" with a K, not with a C.

  • Mike Laursen||

    The much-hyped cash-for-clunkers program-passed as part of an "emergency" supplemental bill to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (don't even get me started)...

    I suppose it would make sense, if they were selling off the clunkers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • ||

    "The first complaint seems to be 'No fair...my car doesn't qualify!'"

    Since those of us with higher incomes pay more in taxes and constantly get cut out of these programs, I tend to think that "no fair" is a legitimate complaint. We're paying for all this, and we don't get anything in return except that somebody with a clunker has $4,500 more to compete against us with.

  • ||

    I have a car that's worth $750 according to Edmunds but through this program I can get 4,500 for a new Honda Civic. I was going to replace my car anyway with a more recent used car, but this program made a new car affordable.

    When I first heard of the program I thought it was a ridiculous waste of money (and still do) but I'm enough of a hypocrite to use it anyway. It's hard to say no to a free (to me) $3750.

  • Doug||

    "Since those of us with higher incomes pay more in taxes and constantly get cut out of these programs, I tend to think that "no fair" is a legitimate complaint. We're paying for all this, and we don't get anything in return except that somebody with a clunker has $4,500 more to compete against us with."

    Yeah, and you're stuck paying off student loans while those soldiers who came home from war had the GI bill which gave them tens of thousands of dollars more to compete against you for a college education.

    It's very tough to be in a high income bracket these days, but it still makes no sense to envy the less fortunate.

  • jhenry||

    For working trucks the rule is not based on the fuel efficieny. As long as it is manufactured before 2001 they all qualify
    but cannot be older than 25 years old.


    Jhenry
    Blogger
    www.cashforclunkersfacts.info
    http://www.cashforclunkersfacts.info

  • ||

    "Yeah, and you're stuck paying off student loans while those soldiers who came home from war had the GI bill which gave them tens of thousands of dollars more to compete against you for a college education."

    I think I see your point, but I could have taken advantage of the GI Bill if I had chosen to. I have less of a beef with opportunities that I ruled out (it's actually not that simple, but for purposes of this discussion, assume I passed it up). There's a difference between government programs where you earn an entitlement and programs where you don't.

    I don't "envy" the less fortunate. The proof is in the simple fact that I could be less fortunate if I wanted to. And that's leaving aside the problem of what "fortunate" means (according to Merriam Webster, "bringing some good thing not foreseen as certain or receiving some unexpected good").

    As far as I'm concerned, the GI Bill isn't for those less fortunate. It's for those who performed a service and are entitled to receive a "certain" and "foreseeable" benefit.

    I already pay extra on the progressive tax scale (and virtually all taxes). Don't punch me twice by prohibiting me from participating in a tax credit program. People like to think that $250,000 per year is some magic number for getting nailed at tax time, but unequal programs like this bring that "rich man's tax" down to people who are just getting by. And be realistic, we aren't talking about the "less fortunate". We're talking about people only slightly less middle class than I am, and probably more wealthy in many circumstances.

  • Doug||

    Well, Cash for Clunkers is going to benefit maybe 250,000 people. Why bother, perhaps, but it seems the main objective is to goose sagging auto sales. $1 billion is really a drop in the bucket. When you consider that there are 3 billion US citizens, that's 33 cents per person. Supposing I pay 10x as much tax as that, I'm still forking out $3.33...about the price of a cup of coffee. I can't spend too much time worrying about how my one cup of coffee is being spent on somebody else's car. There are bigger problems out there by far.

  • ||

    "I'm still forking out $3.33...about the price of a cup of coffee."

    Well yeah, but if you have 15 other similarly worthless programs, you have $49.95 worth of coffee. That much coffee will make you shit your pants and stop your heart from beating.

  • Doug||

    "Well yeah, but if you have 15 other similarly worthless programs, you have $49.95 worth of coffee. That much coffee will make you shit your pants and stop your heart from beating."

    Lol! It seems I pay about that much every month in taxes on my phone bill alone in order to support phone and broadband access for folks who live in rural areas. So multiply that coffee by 12 every year, and every year after that. And then there's the cable bill and the power bills, and on and on.... I hate to think how much I pay so that Johnny Dude Ranch can have his acreage out in Wherethef, Montana with high-speed internet and a cell phone tower nearby. Maybe now he'll get himself a new truck to boot. ;-)

    I'm just sayin'... at least Cash for Clunkers has a dollar limit and an expiration date. I don't think it's a well-thought-out program, but I hope it helps some people. Gotta look at the bright side of life or I won't need any coffee to stop my heart beating. Any time I spend resenting the $4500 car credit Johnny got that I didn't is time I'm not spending enjoying what I do have. I may not have a new car, but I have a decent bicycle...and it's supposed to be a fine weekend. Hope you all enjoy your weekend, clunker or no.

  • ||

    Prepare for the scams. They are already growing. Buyer beware. Check out this list of them here: http://butasforme.com/2009/07/17/cash-for-clunkers-the-ultimate-bait-and-switch-marketing-tool/

  • jhenry||

    Program runs through Nov 1, 2009 or when the funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.

    Jhenry
    Blogger
    www.cashforclunkersfacts.info
    http://www.cashforclunkersfacts.info

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