The Silver Lining of Cash for Clunkers: Studies in Stupid Stimulus Spending


There was never a lot to love about last summer's Cash for Clunkers program. We pointed out the ways it could be scammed, how it made used cars more expensive, destroyed useful goods, and even its backers admitted the claims about environmental benefits were most a bunch of hot air—and last we checked it was threatening to spawn lookalikes.

But finally, someone has found a silver lining. The excellent Coyote Blog sums it up:

I have found a reason to love the Cash for Clunkers program:  it is a fabulous demonstration project for just how utterly pointless government stimulus programs can be.  Stimulus programs tend to be hard to evaluate in our complex economy — sort of like trying to calculate the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings on world climate.  But since cash for clunkers only lasted a few weeks and hit only one industry, we can learn a lot about the effectiveness of government stimulus.

You'll notice that the dotted line—which simply averages the month o' clunkers and the month after—lands pretty much where the trend line would have been without that $3 billion in federal spending.

Via Reason contributor Will Wilkinson.