New York Times Readers Are Smart


No, really. They are.

Consider this post on a New York Times blog, about the "cash for clunkers" plan emerging from Congress after torturous months of debate:

Under the plan, consumers can turn in cars or light-duty trucks that get less than 18 miles a gallon. If they [new] buy cars that have "window sticker" mileage ratings of at least four miles a gallon more than their old cars, they will receive a voucher worth $3,500. If they buy cars that get at least 10 miles a gallon more than their old car, they receive $4,500. (Readers can check the "window sticker" mileage ratings of cars going back to 1985 at fueleconomy.gov.)

The post itself is unremarkable, but check out the comments underneath. Virtually every commenter picks apart the bill on pretty legit grounds. Collectively, their analysis is damning to the whole "cash for clunkers" concept. Just take a sample from the first page. Commenter "Marie" writes:

So—once again, the people who made irresponsible, selfish decisions will get rewarded, and those of us who made responsible if un-trendy choices pay full price. I drive an 18-year-old car that I hoped would be eligible for this program, but it's not — it gets more than 18 mpg (because, of course, it's a Honda).

I will be buying a new car, and it will not be a Ford, Chrysler or any other American car.

Commenter "Lego":

This program is ripe for abuse. How many will go to the used car lot/classifieds buy a $500 car, and drive it straight to the dealership?

And commenter "Kevin":

This bill is a horrid idea. Why punish people like me who already bought a fuel efficient car? Why not give people who buy efficient cars a tax credit or cash incentive when they buy one regardless of what they purchased before? These credits have largely sunsetted under the Bush administration. Clunkers will die from attrition the way they always have. This bill completely ignores the pollution and wasted energy from unnecessary manufacturing and the disposal of old vehicles. Doesn't the congress have people who are capable of cost/benefit analysis? I'd like to rap some of these legislators on the head with my knuckles like Moe the Stooge would have.

The final version of the bill will answer some of these objections, no doubt. And this is an automotive blog, so the sample isn't a pure slice of the New York Times readership. But when even the Times car blog commenters are running riot against a do-gooder bill like this one, it may be time to rethink.

Of course, Reason commenters have already ripped into the idea here