The government’s ‘clash for clunkers’ program attracted a small amount of attention before it was launched last week. However, after it began there was a much larger response than anticipated and although the government had allowed 90 days for the program, it is believed the program will be depleted of funds by the end of this week. Now the ‘Cars Allowance Rebate System’ or CARS, is all over the media and is being highly criticized by right leaning and conservative media outlets.
The main issue that news providers like Fox News has with CARS is that the government grosslyunderestimated the amount needed to fund the program. Fox presenters and conservative radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have now drawn their own conclusions from this. If the government is unable to project the funding needed to meet public demand for a newer car, then how in the world will they ever be able to manage health care for all Americans? It really is the perfect setup for conservative commentators isn’t it?
The main problem I find with this elementary analysis though is that comparing a program that gives money to Americans to voluntarily get rid of their gas guzzling car, to a public health system that means health insurance to all Americans is like comparing apples and oranges. The first is designed to stimulate the economy and help reduce our impact on the environment and the second is to lower health care costs per capita in the United States. They have opposite aims and deal with completely different problems.
By all accounts, I would describe the CARS program as a success as it appears to have more than achieved its aims. The CARS website states clearly that the program will run until November 1st or until the funds are depleted. It was designed to attract Americans to give up older and inefficient cars and they have done so with overwhelming enthusiasm. Whether the money is spent in one week or three months seems to be irrelevant, as the aim was to stimualte spending (which it clearly has) and get these cars off the road. The fact that Ford is expecting to report its first increase in sales since November, 2007 is one indication of how CARS has achieved one of its aims.
As the comparison between CARS and government run health care becomes boring, some critics are looking for other points on which to harp. In the Wall Street Journal one journalist discovered there has been a sharp increase in the demand of the chemical sodium silicate which is used to destroy the cars turned in through the program. Apparently chemical providers are now struggling to meet the demand and his criticism was that the government failed to warn these buisinesses that there would be an increase in demand for this chemical. Is this really a problem? I’m sure these businesses are certainly enjoying the profits from an increase in sales and not cursing the government for creating a program that helped out their business.
In reality, the fact that CARS has also increased sales in the chemical industry seems to be another positive for CARS. Not only has it stimulated sales in the car industry, it has also stimulated sales for chemical providers and this has to be a good thing for our economy. It seems that conservatives and right wing observers are grasping at straws to discredit our current administration and they hope in the process, to damage the movement towards health care for all. But I suppose that’s another blog entry altogether.