The Grinch Who Stole Cash for Clunkers?

Here in the heartland, we were greeted with headlines this morning, the likes of which we haven’t seen since aught seven.

“Clunkers’ restarts auto sales; some makers have best month,” trumpeted the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Akron Beacon Journal announced: “July auto sales on the rise as program draws buyers.”

The federal “Cash for clunkers” program, as most people know, offers rebates of between $3,500 and $4,500 to people who trade in old cars for newer cars with higher fuel economy. The old cars have to get 18 miles per gallon or less. The rebate size depends on the fuel economy of the replacement car.

Congress initially appropriated $1 billion for the bill.

Funny thing happened on the way to the car dealership. People love this government program. It helps automakers (Ford last month posted its first sales increase since late 2007), car dealerships, and consumers — spurring the beleaguered economy, all while helping the environment. As the NY Times reports:

Dealers estimated that they moved a quarter-million cars with the rebate money. The Transportation Department reported that of 120,000 rebate applications processed so far, the average gas mileage of cars being bought was 28.3 miles per gallon, for SUV’s 21.9 miles per gallon, and for trucks, 16.3 miles per gallon, all significantly higher than required to get a rebate.

The House last week, with true bipartisan support, passed a bill to extend the program, authorizing another $2 billion worth of rebates.

Enter Senate Republicans.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says cash for clunkers is an example of botched execution by the Obama administration. With people lining up to purchase new, environmentally friendlier cars from economically strapped dealers, Sen. John McCain is reportedly expected to lead a filibuster against the additional funds. Said Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina: “This is crazy to try to rush this thing through again while they’re trying to rush through health care. We’ve got to slow this thing down.” He called cash for clunkers an example of the “stupidity coming out of Washington right now.”

Actually — and this is what many Republicans simple cannot abide — it’s an example of a spectacularly popular government program that works.

Do they seriously mean to tell us with a straight face that because Congress underestimated the popularity of the program, it’s an example of government ineptitude? Would they say the same thing about Apple, which initially could not keep up with demand for iPod minis or Shuffles? Would they castigate, for initially failing to make enough Kindles? Would they hurl bromides about the stupidity coming out of Silicon Valley?

Republicans, having made the specious argument that this program’s popularity proves the government is too inept to manage health care, cannot now afford to let new funding go through. By their own logic, it would show that government can and does work for the people. And it would hand Obama a huge and visible victory as he makes the case this August that government can and will manage health care reform.

Yes, we know. More car rebates will add to the national debt. Just like all those war-time tax cuts Republican senators voted for during the Bush years.

Meanwhile, consumers line up in an ailing economy, hoping the Senate will come through, and they will be able to buy newer cars with better fuel economy.

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

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4 Responses to “The Grinch Who Stole Cash for Clunkers?”

  1. mconley says:

    I’d like to see more than just “fuel efficient” cars included in the program. Specifically, pickup trucks and like vehicles for use in an individuals specific trade.

  2. Jon says:

    The Republicans are just showing how out of touch they are with the needs of most Americans, and how willing they are to sacrifice sanity in the name of political posturing.

    We shouldn’t be surprised since it goes along with the kinds of statements Republicans are making when they say they will not vote to confirm Sotomayor, i.e., Mitch McConnell quoted by AP as saying she “is certainly a fine person with an impressive story and a distinguished background. But a judge must be able to check his or her personal or political agenda at the courtroom door and do justice evenhandedly… It’s a test Judge Sotomayor does not pass.” I guess the current conservatives on the court pass but she, who has closely hewn to precedent, doesn’t.

  3. Neurotic Dem says:

    daniel — thanks for the props!
    mconley — I’m with you. I’d love to see an expanded cash for clunkers program.
    Jon — I still wonder why the media doesn’t hold the GOP to a higher standard when they make their absurd arguments about judicial activism. As if John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Scalia have “checked their personal agendas at the courtroom door.”
    As for the GOP being out of touch — see my above post, about neocon John Bolton …

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