Taxes

New York Times Readers Are Smart

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clunk

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

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  1. This should have been titled: Chuck Schumer is a fucking dumbass and everyone knows it.

  2. Well we never said the NYT’s readers were idiots. The paper’s staff likely still thinks this is a capital idea.

  3. My car might get over 18 mpg, but not the way I drive it. Do I win $4500?

  4. So coupled with the tax incentive to buy a big-ass vehicle you can net almost 10K over 2 years. Bonus! Now where was that Hummer dealership again?

  5. Can Congress ever do anything that’s not just blatantly stupid as hell?

  6. “””Can Congress ever do anything that’s not just blatantly stupid as hell?”””

    Maybe by accident.

  7. Cash for clunkers?
    What can I get for returning the MTA?

  8. Irresponsible? Damnit, you find me one of these fuel-efficient cars that fits a 6’8″ person and can be afforded by a college student and then we can talk about responsibility.

  9. The final version of the bill will answer some of these objections, no doubt.

    Do you honestly believe that?

    And, of course, just buying those junkpiles for cash, and allowing the sellers to do as they please with the proceeds; heaven forfend!

  10. Clunkers will die from attrition the way they always have.

    Some of them will never die. Jeez, even if all the gasoline on earth were to disappear today I’ll still see that jackass neighbor of mine scraping together parts to get his truck running for the tenth time this week.

  11. When they say “receive a voucher”, what does that mean? It can’t be a check.

  12. Another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Congress seems to forget that the American people are sneaky and creative when it comes to money.

    They’re a bunch of amateurs that can’t think past their own frontal lobe.

  13. $4500 for my 16 mpg 1996 Camaro convertible. Never going to happen.

  14. When they say “receive a voucher”, what does that mean?

    It’s sort of like a gift certificate, with a picture of some Italian guy on it.

  15. It’s sort of like a gift certificate, with a picture of some Italian guy on it.

    That’s a spicy meat-a-ball!

  16. New York Times Readers Are Smart

    We’re still better looking.

  17. “When they say “receive a voucher”, what does that mean? It can’t be a check.”

    But I’m opposed to vouchers.

  18. One can only pray that these NYT readers will apply this logic to other bailouts and assistance programs.

  19. Wouldn’t it just be more efficient to just take the budgeted money for this well intentioned idiotic program and just give it straight away to the car companies?

    What’s that? Oh…never mind.

  20. “$4500 for my 16 mpg 1996 Camaro convertible. Never going to happen.”

    Nor for my 1995 Ford F-150 4×4 with only 60K miles.

    I drive about 50 miles a month (public transportation to work). It’s not about how many miles/gallon a vehicle gets; it’s about how much you drive. I burn about 60 gallons of gas/year. How many gallons does the average Los Angeles Prius burn in a year? I’m guessing more than 60.

  21. I meant 1994.

  22. “Irresponsible? Damnit, you find me one of these fuel-efficient cars that fits a 6’8″ person and can be afforded by a college student and then we can talk about responsibility.”

    Yeah i’ve always had the same problem. I’d prefer to have a more fuel efficient car but i can’t fit into any of them. And given a few miles per gallon or not having my head stick out the sun roof, i pick the latter.

  23. 1. Commenters at Youtube are smarter than almost everyone else here.

    2. The NYT recently conducted a roundtable blog post about one of their articles, and I discussed it here. I left a comment at their blog post linking to my discussion, and it was never approved. I sent an email to the NYT’s pub. editor, including the comment and the link to the NYT blog post. They wrote back and said a) they were doing a story about comments not being approved, and b) they couldn’t find the link to their blog post in my email (despite it being obvious). So, I wrote back. Some automated replies later, I got another message saying they were going to look into it. Developing…

  24. “I drive about 50 miles a month (public transportation to work). It’s not about how many miles/gallon a vehicle gets; it’s about how much you drive. I burn about 60 gallons of gas/year. How many gallons does the average Los Angeles Prius burn in a year? I’m guessing more than 60.”

    And thats why CAFE standards dont work. People just drive more off of the savings. The irony is, is that all the greens who push for CAFE standard increases just end up increasing urban sprawl and therfore a lot more trees get cut down among other things.

    I wouldnt be surprised if between the added driving miles, the increase in trees being paved over via sprawl and the increased imputs going into these more advanced engines etc, that in the end CAFE standards actually INCREASE the amount of carbon in the air.

  25. Lone Wacko approached his 1988 Chrysler LeBaron, running his eyes over its K-frame lines that he adored so much–American engineering at its finest. As he opened the door, the familiar female voice, as always, said “the door is ajar”. How he loved that voice. He would dream sometimes that it was the voice of a woman who loved him. He’d never had a woman love him, of course, but that made it all the more special.

    He pulled away from the curb, warily looking out for agents of Vincente Fox or careening taco stands, but the road was clear. It was time to track down the next lead Hugh Jazz had given him: a supposed informant by the name of I. P. Knightley who had information on the NAFTA superhighway.

    It was time to break this case wide open.

  26. OK, Epi, this story is getting too sad. Plus, your creative genius only slightly exceeds the absurdity of the original. Can you please, please work in an NYT conspiracy? The LiberalMedia at its most nefarious?

  27. Too sad? It’s practically a biography. Besides, wouldn’t it be an LA Times conspiracy?

  28. Please tell us how he came to love CamelCase so much. Was it inspired by his LeBaron?

  29. I’ll have to think about that, Jordan. Maybe in the next installment.

  30. A better idea would be to send annual tax bills based the fuel efficiency to people based on car registration…. For every MPG under 20 you pay $100. For every MPG under 15 you pay $250. A 9 MPG Hummer owner would pay $2,000 per year. It would not only encourage people to ditch their clunkers, it could get some cars off front lawns…. Oh, and all cars have to be registered!

    /Socialist Mastermind

  31. Epi – wonderful! Solitary wack job might run into Wayne or Sulu when they work on their noir cases!

  32. 1. Commenters at Youtube are smarter than almost everyone else here.

    No they’re not.Youtube commenters are the dumbest people on the internets.

  33. Lone Wacko approached his 1988 Chrysler LeBaron, running his eyes over its K-frame lines that he adored so much–American engineering at its finest. As he opened the door, the familiar female voice, as always, said “the door is ajar”. How he loved that voice. He would dream sometimes that it was the voice of a woman who loved him. He’d never had a woman love him, of course, but that made it all the more special.

    He pulled away from the curb, warily looking out for agents of Vincente Fox or careening taco stands, but the road was clear. It was time to track down the next lead Hugh Jazz had given him: a supposed informant by the name of I. P. Knightley who had information on the NAFTA superhighway.

    It was time to break this case wide open.

    Not as good as Epi’s, but here we go….

    Lone Whacko had some time to kill before he met with Hugh Jazz’s contact so he decided to leave his beloved LeBaron and walk the mean streets of LA. He spent several minutes shaking his fists in impotent rage at random Univision and Galavision billboards, but even this wasn’t giving him the usual ejaculatory thrill that it did. The memory of the prior night in his apartment was still casting a gloomy pall over him. Why not engage in some sabotage and bring the bastards down one brick at a time, he thought to himself.

    He walked into the nearest toy store and went directly to the Handy Manny aisle. Lone Whacko took a rusted Craftsman mini-Phillips-head screwdriver, circa 1974, and began removing the screw that held the right arm of the Handy Manny doll to its body. When he finished with the last one on the aisle his mouth contorted into a twisted smile as he thought about all the postage charges the toy company would have to pay to fix the dolls, and how all the Hispanic and Anglo collaborator children, whose parents dared to want them to learn a second language, were going to cry tears of sadness as their Handy Manny toys broke after their first use.

    “Who’s handy now, Manny?” He said as he kneeled down and stared at one of the dolls eye-to-eye.

    “Sir, do you need any help?” Asked a store worker.

    “No. My work here is done.” Lone Whacko said in a gravely Christian Bale-as-Batman voice. He walked past the worker with a sneer and headed for the door.

    “What a prick.” The worker said as Whacko walked out of the store.

  34. 24AheadDotCom | May 6, 2009, 6:04pm | #

    1. Commenters at Youtube are smarter than almost everyone else here.

    Case in point.

  35. 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.

    It should be pointed out that the times commenters also did a better job of taking apart the stupidity of this bill then times did.

  36. I’ve got a couple of questions for socialist mastermind on his “brilliant” scheme above:

    I have two cars:
    Car 1 – a 2007 Mustang. The listed highway mileage is 25 mpg, but I regularly knock out 29 mpg on the highway (even when I have fun at 120). How does that get taxed? The actual demonstrated mileage, or the EPA estimated mileage?

    Car 2 – a 1984 Maserati Biturbo. This car hasn’t run in years, and is currently partially disassembled in a garage. How does this get taxed? It’s not on the road, and hasn’t been in years. Also, it’s the target of a guerrilla engineering project to switch it from carbureted to fuel injected, which will definitely affect the mileage. So, once it is back on the road, would it be taxed at the carbureted mileage?

    Essentially, you’d have to make engine tinkering and engine swaps illegal for this plan to work. So all those electric and biodiesel total conversions would have to be illegal too, to say nothing of the fun ones like slapping a 911 engine in a beetle, or slapping a jet engine onto a beetle (look that one up).

    DISCLAIMER: This comment is null and void if socialist mastermind is actually a troll or a sarcastic comment that I missed. But, still look up the jet engine beetle, it’s f**king sweet.

  37. Essentially, you’d have to make engine tinkering and engine swaps illegal for this plan to work.

    No, you’d have to make all that illegal for the plan to make any goddamn sense at all. Since the sole purpose of this plan is to generate revenue, it would still work just fine even if it made no goddamn sense at all.

  38. 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?

    Why even go this far? All a dealership has to do is keep an old clunker sitting in their lots, and when someone buys a new car, add some additional paperwork to sell them the clunker for $1, then immediately trade it in for the new car. Bam, instant tax credit.

  39. Socialist Mastermind was an attempt at sarcasm, though in the vein of something that your government might actually consider doing to you.

  40. So you’d rather have the planet killed off by all these old ass gas guzzling Co2 spewing dumpsters on wheels?

    The argument of “that’s not fair” is childish and quite frankly invalid considering the alternative is less breathable air for you and your children. Higher gas prices because there is only so much supply and these cars triple and quadruple our demand!

    And lets not forget the safety issues involved with older cars. Not only are they built like tanks and will destroy your average Honda in a collision, but older cars do not require full coverage insurance, so good luck collecting anything when you Prius is literally smashed into a ball by a ’73 Full Size Dodge Pickup whose 30+ year old brakes finally failed. Hell it’s difficult to get insurance companies to pay up when the owner DOES have full coverage. Liability only? Forget it. And if they did is any amount of money more valuable than your ability to walk? Or speak? Or your life for that matter. These old steel beasts are a real danger when new cars are made out of fiberglass.

    And then there is the side effect of spurring auto sales in this country which have declined dramatically over the last few years. And not just American models but ALL models. The fact that people who have been hanging onto their old gas guzzler because they could never *afford* a Civic or even a $14,000 Volks Wagon (it’s not irresponsibility or stupidity or stubbornness it’s price!) will finally be able to get rid of these old dinosaurs and buy something sensible.

    As for wide spread abuse, if its anything like the program we already have here in California for trading in mass polluters you’ll have to show that you have owned, insured and registered the vehicle for at least the last two years. That the vehicle moved under its own power and that it meets all of the requirements set by the program (seats, mirrors all in tact, clean DMV title, etc)

    And even if it didn’t if people wanted to spend $500 dollars on a crap car so they can trade it in for a few thousand bucks off a new car, MORE POWER TO THEM! The point is to spur auto sales and get gas guzzlers off the streets. If it guzzles gas who gives a shit if they paid $500 or $2 dollars for the thing? It still gets it off the road!

    This is a big positive and necessary (while still voluntary) step toward solving a very serious problem. In short this program is a very good thing!

    And if it makes you cry because it’s not fair to you, I suggest you go take it up with your mommy.

  41. The texas system has a lot of strings that prevent if from being abused, or even used for that matter.

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