Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cash For Chuckleheads

I really don't like the "Cash For Clunkers" program.

First, the supposed environmental benefits are "middling" at best. There are far more effective ways to use tax dollars to save the planet.

Then there's the moral hazard. The most common trade-ins include Ford Explorers and Chevy Blazers. Why should we reward people who made lousy mileage decisions? We should be letting the free market punish those decisions. I'd much rather reward the guy whose '95 Civic is still going strong.

Finally, the economic stimulus. Short-term stimulus for car makers and dealers, yes. Woohoo! But what happens six months from now? Remember employee pricing, the superstar of 2005? Remember what happened a year later, when there was no more demand in the pipeline? Remember the bankruptcies of 2008? A taxpayer-funded price cut isn't a rescue plan, it's a leaky life preserver in the middle of a big ocean.

So this is one of those odd moments where I find myself in agreement with immoderate Republicans like Jim DeMint. "Cash For Clunkers" gives Joe Taxpayer a piece of bail-out pie, so it's enormously popular. But that doesn't make it good policy. It's as misguided as the huge Wall Street bail-outs.

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