Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Good money after bad

The Cash for Clunkers program is about to run out of money, but, never fear, there’s talk about throwing more money into the program, about which we’ve already talked here and here.

Of course, car dealers like the program, though (of course) they’re frustrated by the paperwork. It will be interesting to see if anyone can come up with numbers regarding how many "American-made" cars will eventually be purchased through this program. I’m sure that the Koreans and Japanese are quite pleased that "we’re" helping out their automakers’ bottom lines, at least at the margins (though perhaps more significantly if we put more money into the pot).

Another question: will this program ever go away, or will Congress always find some spare change to "stimulate" a lagging domestic (and foreign) industry and distort the marketplace?

Discussions - 22 Comments

Hey Kool-Aid Drinkers: How's that hope and change stuff working for all of you?

One problem with the program is that it hurts the poor who are now facing higher prices for transportation since these "clunkers" are supposed to be destroyed (with all the parts that could be salvaged for repairs of older cars/trucks).

One thing that this program has demonstrated is the real success of incentives, but I am sure the Obama administration is going to ignore that lesson.

Buying used cars - I'm looking in my Constitution, but I'm just not finding it! Somebody help!

So, were you just kidding in your other post when you said you took advantage of the program?

Knippenburg is still pushing this, but these posts reveal a strange compulsion. He calculates the utilitarian plusses and minuses of his environmental action to the hundredths, and concludes that his clunkers action was not worth the effort. I wonder if he so calculates all of his actions with such a dreary, small-minded consequentialist scale. Perhaps by his calculations, Knippenberg's Christian moral actions have had a 0.00003% impact on other human beings lives. My point is that it is a foolish device by which to gauge ethical life. It makes a mockery of reflection on moral life to reduce it too much to such measurable impacts, since any one of us will have had an effect that is statistically negligible. Such a calculus would no doubt render senseless many of the actions of those in his own religious tradition. His own criticisms of outcomes measures in education should have alerted him, but the urge to score easy points against environmentalism was too irresistible.

Nice post, Stertinius.

I just had the "pleasure" of seeing Lucianne's Son on former Ashbrook guest speaker Glenn Beck's Fox News show, talking about how this program is evidence of Obama's plan to destroy America with fascism.

Beck spewed some outright lies about the CARS website in the process of his usual scaremongering.

CARS is a fascist program, Obama hates white people, etc...


Morality--even Biblically-inspired morality--requires prudence, and prudence sometimes requires judging the effectiveness of one's actions, especially where there are trade-offs.

I don't deny either that reducing the consumption of fossil fuels or that reducing airborne pollutants is a good thing. But I wonder about the cost-effectiveness of this program.


If it's possible, stay on point. Or are you only good for irrelevant innuendo?

Joe, it really wasn't off-point, although I should have been more specific. I guess I presumed you saw the segment, as your post was quite similar to it. Goldberg and Beck were asking the exact same question about how long such a program might last, with Goldberg - the expert on liberal fascism (remember how skeptical conservatives are about experts?) - offering some innuendo of his own, by noting that Germany (!!) has a similar program that appears to be permanent, at least according to Goldberg (I haven't checked that myself; in the following segment Beck spewed some outright lies about how the CARS website is a Big Brother effort to collect info on participants).

If the CARS program is so problematic for you, why did you legitimate it with your participation?

Germany does have a program like it. I learned about it on that ultra-right-wing radio talk show All Things Considered on NPR.

...and needless to say that the NPR news program probably discussed it without the wink-wink, nudge-nudge BS (They have a permanent program like ours, so if ours goes permanent then we're slipping towards fascism) that Goldberg and Beck did.

[Will any NLT blogger ever admit that having Glenn Beck as an honored guest speaker was a lapse in judgment?]

Cash for clunkers is the talk of the town. It is already more successful than any of Bush's faith-based initiatives, which were covert political maneuvers never intended to help anyone anyway (at least according to their own directors, such as DiIulio and David Kuo). To apply Knippenburgian prudential benefit calculations to those would carry you out several decimal places, except of course to the evangelical political operatives who were the intended beneficiaries in the first place.

Were the faith-based initiatives really precursors to Cash for Clunkers? I am having trouble following the logic on that one.

More commentary on the program from the totally conservative New York Times, although it is only The Lede, their blog.

No one here is complaining that the Cash for Clunkers program is fascist that I recall. The main complaint is that it is a stupid waste.

Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law, said in a statement that the cash-for-clunker program is not a cost-effective way to reduce fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions. Any energy savings, he said, could take several years to realize, considering the time it takes the fuel savings from a new car to exceed the energy cost used to make it.

In the meantime, we are making lots of solid waste in the form of formerly usable cars. Those cars have to be unusable and proven so for the car dealers to get any money for them. (Though they seem unsure that they will actually get any money, anyway. Read the article.)

That cuts down the salvage value of the cars — and the incentive for salvage yards and wreckers to take them — to almost nothing, considering the time and energy they must spend in going to the dealer, towing back the dead cars, removing the engines, crushing the bodies and shipping them to a metal scrap shredder and recycler. And, of course, the process reduces the supply of used engines for people who can’t afford to buy a new car and come to the salvage yard looking to fix up old ones.

Like the EPA says, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I like this idea from the WSJ. Let’s have a $4,500 subsidy for everything. Perhaps ren is suggesting that if the faith-based initiatives had provided that kind of stimulus for the economy, we would have a Republican in the White House, now.

This will create thousands of cubes of metal to be shipped overseas where it will be recycled, made into new parts which the foreign companies will not sell to us for worthless Obambabucks.

It will also take, from many people, cars that they can afford to buy and run.

With union members as management, experienced car designers fired, Obamba's demand for new Obambamobiles, and steel production prohibited by Obamba, Guvmint Motors will make nothing.

Stertinius: it is a foolish device by which to gauge ethical life.

Right -- because looking empirically at CARS and following Biblical law are the same thing. I get you -- this is a messianic age.

ren: Nice example of a partisan "they did it too" argument. What on earth is the definition of a "faith based initiative?"

Craig: I don't think by saying that the program resembles Germany insinuates "fascism!" -- although I haven't been listening to Beck; I'd take Merkel any day anyways. But I think there is rightfully a fear that the US could look a lot more like the EU -- yes, probably a plus for you. And in case you missed it, conservative talk-radio is purposely satirical and intentionally paranoid: the "get off my phone!" persona is part of the schtick. At any rate, its no less shrill than the MoveOn "General Betray-us" nonsense. Yeah, that would be politically tenable today!

Moser: That's hilarious.

* I don't think saying the program resembles Germany insinuates "fascism!"

Stertinius: Now that I think about it, I actually wouldn't see anything wrong with a local church using "a dreary, small-minded consequentialist scale" -- shouldn't Christians always feel that they could be doing more, and quite rightly a lot more?

I like Jonah Goldberg, but don't watch or listen to Glen Beck. (It's not driven by an aversion, just that I neither listen to the radio all that much nor watch much television.) So my points were all my own, not derived from some conservative talking points memo.

Government programs create constituencies, which makes them hard to abolish. The politically clever thing about this program is that it's not means-tested (and hence potentially appeals to a broad constituency) and might (if it were run well, which it quite predictably hasn't been) enlist the sympathies of car dealers (who I heard somewhere--when I was listening ever so briefly to the radio--lean Republican).

As for the faith-based initiative, one of the big reasons Democrats opposed it is that, politically, it raised the possibility of bridges between Republicans and African-American churches. It wasn't a slush fund for right-leaning evangelicals.

T-Hag: read Stert's post again. Knippenberg is attempting to gauge his ethical actions by way of empirical means. That's what is so silly. If Christians began to judge their efforts at moral perfection through some "objective" scale, it would suck all of the subjectivity out of Christian faith. Your own religion would chiefly become nothing more than an attempt to achieve the ends of the "dreary, small-minded consequentialist scale" you seem to not have any problem with. If "impact statistics" and meeting some "bottom line" become more important than one's personal reflection on and critique of their own actions (besides comparing it to the "scale" 'o awesome objectivity), how personal can that religion (or conviction to environmentalism or education) be?

If that doesn't clear things up for you, read Kierkegaard. Or Facebook him or whatever you kids do these days.

I think the difference of opinion lies in you talking about the individual while I am talking about Christians collectively, which are different in important ways. Of course it would be silly of me to graph out my actions -- I'm not perfect. But I don't think the church is concerned with the same problem.

T-Hag: I didn't mean to sound condescending. If anything, my statement was self-deprecating - I mourn my generation's obsession with their online personas (myself included; I spend way too much time on this blog) and demand for super-fast information.

Discussing the merits of Kierkegaard is far too important and fascinating for this blog. Sure, I've got some serious problems with him too. But I just threw his name out because I think that he will help you understand Stert's complaints against Knippenberg.

And if we're going to get into why the church was "established" and other inherent problems within Christian dogma, we'll have to meet at the bar, my friend.

Matt: I got ya. To get on topic, I guess my point is wasn't Knippenburg speaking about a sort of macro-level economic impact rather than how his individual actions would affect things, or am I mistaken? I think he was doing that on another thread: that's how all this craziness about Kierkegaard popped up, if I'm right...

Matt: Could have done without the condescending "whatever you kids do these days" -- some of us still read books, you know. I am vaguely familiar with "Every Good and Perfect Gift is from Above," and yes, I have some objections to it. Your nonchalant name dropping intimates that Kierkegaard was some sort of philosopher-saint, as if he were not problematic.

I in no way encroached upon the personal relationship, although how is it that anyone can deny that Christianity must, in part, be Providential? Doing away with so-called "consequentialist scales" could mean something like "we're not even going to try to have a fundraising goal because heck -- we tried!" Not all are as faithful as Job, and even he didn't have perfect patience.

At any rate, the church is a community established to save souls, which no scale can measure -- so I think we're safe, Bubs.

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