Cash for Clunkers Trashed by Inksters

Punditry goes wild

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Aug 5, 2009  |  Updated 3:30 PM CDT
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Cash for Clunkers Trashed by Inksters

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Some conservative newspapers and blogs are not big fans of cash for clunkers.

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The Chicago Tribune editorial page has a message for Congress about the wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program: Stop. Please.

"You might be able to put a new car in every garage, but not without putting taxpayers in the poor house," the paper's editorial page says.

Local auto dealers, though, are having a field day.

"This is like the old days," Roger Rudin of Willowbrook Kia-Ford told the Sun-Times. "We've been busy for the past 10 days from the time we open until we close."

Tell that to University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt.

"Is Somebody Lying About 'Cash for Clunkers?'" Levitt asks on his Freakonomics blog.

'The numbers just don't add up . . . if you believe the numbers, sales involving clunkers as trade-ins last week represented more than two times the weekly sales of new vehicles when the industry was healthy."

Maybe.

But scrappers are reporting a frenzy similar to what dealers claim.

"Last week, we picked up over 100 cars just for the 'Cash for Clunkers' program alone," North Shore Towing Owner Robert Cole told CBS2Chicago.

"Cole says they've been smashing, stacking and scrapping clunkers as fast as his forklift operators can move the piles of mangled metal."

And no criticism of an Obama administration program is complete without charges of "Socialism at Work," as Marathon Pundit describes Cash for Clunkers ("C4C" for those in the know.)

MP links approvingly to a Wall Street Journal editorial that - ignoring the environmental component of the program - says "Let’s have taxpayers subsidize the purchase of kitchen appliances, women’s clothing, the latest Big Bertha driver - our Taylor-made is certainly a clunker - and new fishing boats. These are hardly less deserving of subsidies than cars."

Chicago's very own Smithe Brothers are already there.

"Walter E. Smithe Furniture has launched its own Cash for Clunkers program, offering credits of up to $500 to those consumers who trade in old furniture when buying new items through Aug. 16 at any of the retailer's 13 Chicago area showrooms," the store announced.

"We'll even haul the traded-in furniture away for free," added Mark Smithe.

Finally, the Cash for Clunkers program has been a boon for parodists (Cash for Drunkards, anyone?) and domain squatters.

So all things considered, a net gain for America. Few federal programs have been as entertaining.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review. 

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