When the Obama Administration hit the ground running in 2009, one of its first “hopeful” and “audacious” programs was “Cash for Clunkers,” a sort of triple-action economic stimulus, carbon-emission reduction, and automaker bailout bill. Congress got on board, a lot of trades were made, billions spent. There was much brouhaha.
Skepticism should have been the order of the day, of course. So many things could have gone wrong.
Now, with the clarity of 20-20 hindsight, a consensus emerges: Cash for Clunkers was a clunker itself. An economic analysis from Resources for the Future is just the latest (mostly negative) judgment: “[T]he program increased new vehicle sales by about 0.36 million during July and August of 2009, implying that approximately 45 percent of the spending went to consumers who would have purchased a new vehicle anyway. Our results suggest no gain in sales beyond 2009 and hence no meaningful stimulus to the economy.”
Further, fuel economy gains and pollution reductions were minuscule.
The study is far from exhaustive. A lot of old cars were scrapped, recycled. Guess what this does to the used car and parts market? It’s been devastating.
Who’s hurt by supply reductions and consequent price rises? Cash-strapped folks, the kind of people who usually buy used cars, or keep old cars running — which is a lot of people during a depression.
I bet that Cash for Clunkers served, on net, to transfer wealth from the working poor to far wealthier individuals.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.