Requiem For A Clunker

August 24, 2009

Today marks the final day of the “Cash For Clunkers” program. The program has been touted as being wildly successful, popular, a brilliant example of the government stimulating the economy, etc. Let’s really look at these claims.

Was it successful? Yes, in the sense that something along the line of half a million new cars were sold (I’ve also seen estimates up to 700,000). But is that really the measure of success?

The program was a government giveaway of taxpayer dollars. The essence of the program was simply this: trade in your old car and the taxpayers of the United States will give you up to $4500 dollars towards the purchase of a new car. The fact that people took advantage of this is about as surprising as the fact that children scrambled to pick up nickels thrown by John D. Rockefeller, and that’s actually one of the pernicious aspects of the program: it treats adults like children being rewarded for cleaning out their garages. The program was popular with those who took advantage of it (and took advantage of other taxpayers, by the way). Why wouldn’t it be? They got free money…and a lot of it. Was it popular with the millions of people who did not participate? I haven’t done surveys, but I’ve asked around. A few people I know think it’s a good idea, but the overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken with are appalled at the entire concept. Judging the popularity of a money giveaway by the smiling faces of those who received the money is not exactly a fair yardstick.

One of the main reasons for the program was to give a shot in the arm to the failing automakers (GM, Chrysler, Ford) and also promote “green” automobiles, but most of the cars sold were foreign cars and standard internal combustion vehicles, so the program failed on both counts. As far as the environment is concerned, the program was, if anything, anti-environmental.

For starters, the program only applied if you bought a new car. Used cars were not allowed. From an environmental standpoint, the cost of producing a new car is considerably higher than the cost of an existing car in the amounts of energy required. A truly environmental agenda here would have required the participant to buy a pre-existing car. Secondly, the law forced the dealership to destroy the turned-in clunker within 48 hours, despite the fact that these cars could have been sold overseas in developing countries and in places like China where people are desperate for cars. The destruction of the cars uses energy, as well. And since the cars were destroyed, and not even allowed to be dismantled and sold for parts, they deprived the auto dealers of a potentially lucrative source of income. There are also many lower-income people in this country who might have jumped at the opportunity of replacing their clunker with a somewhat better clunker.

You also have what I call the “mortgage paradigm” at work. How many lower income people traded in their clunkers for cars they could not afford because the government was willing to give them so much money? Many considerations go into buying a car: the cost of the car, the cost of insurance, the cost of gas, the mileage, etc. Were there people who bought more car than they needed because the government gave them money? This was what happened with the housing crisis…too many people buying more house than they could afford because interest rates were so low. My guess is that the number of recently purchased cars that end up for sale a year from now will be somewhat higher than normal as people sell off their shiny new Camrys and replace them with…used clunkers.

Then there’s this: the program was announced with great fanfare and was going to cost $1 billion dollars and run from August until November. At the end of the day, the program cost at least $3 billion and ran from August until August. There are other additional costs as well. The government has had to hire people and outsource paperwork. The dealers have been working around the clock to try to keep up with the paperwork on their end (and only about 2% of dealers have gotten their money back). Destroying the cars costs money. Being unable to sell the used clunkers either as cars or as parts is a loss of potential revenue. This program has cost at least three times what the government estimated and has ended two months early even as dealers are starting to pull out of the program on their own.

This “wildly successful” program has been an absolute debacle, a shining example of government causing problems and not solving problems.

And when it comes to putting our nation’s health care system into the same hands that brought us this sham of a program, Barack Obama smiles and says, “Trust me.”

Spoken like a used car salesman.

Further reading: Michelle Malkin has additional info here, and news about the next one: Cash For Appliances. Hot Air has the goods on Federal workers being reassigned from the FAA’s air traffic control unit to deal with this program. Over at Liberty Log, J.P. Muhlenberg brings up some of the same concerns.

Rich Lowry On The Gullibility Of Americans

August 21, 2009

At NRO, Rich Lowry hits the ball way, way out of the park with this excellent column.

The Shame Of MSNBC

August 21, 2009

After showing video of a man wearing a gun at an Obama protest rally, MSNBC anchorette Contessa Brewer decided to inject race into the equation by fretting over the prospect of white people bringing guns while a “person of color” was in the White House. The talking heads stood there nodding at each other and expressing real worry over the prospect of Barack Obama ending up another Martin Luther King:

You guessed it. The guy with the gun, who was carefully framed by the camera to avoid showing his skin color, was black.

Michelle Malkin awards MSNBC the “Cone Of Shame” and Hot Air has more here and here.

After this report, MSNBC ran this special report about other serious concerns.

Commandment XI: Thou Shalt Support My Healthcare Initiatives

August 20, 2009

President Obama has reached out via a conference call to thousands of religious leaders of many faiths to enlist their support for health care reform. The phone call apparently unearthed a secret, 11th Commandment that had been mysteriously missing from The Torah: Thou Shalt Support Socialized Medicine.

Obama accused those who are protesting health care reform with “bearing false witness” and that we have a “core ethical and moral obligation…that we look out for one another.”

Most of the people on the call were already on Obama’s side and all too willing to abnegate the role of their churches and synagogues and replace them with government bureaucracies. Father Bob Amundsen, a Catholic priest, said: “For us as Catholic Christians, we see this as a moral issue in which we carry on the healing ministry of Jesus.” Father, I am a Catholic Christian and would like to remind you that your statement is a political one, not a theological one. In that way, the fact that you have a white collar is interesting, but not of any theological (or moral) importance.

White House policy chief Melody Barnes claimed that health care reform was “at the crux of being a faithful steward of our resources.” I’m not even sure what that means, but I know it’s stupid. Is she telling the assembled religious leaders that health care reform is “a cross” that is necessary for being a steward (“shepherd”) of resources (parishioners or other congregants)? That’s the only meaning I can pull from this: you need to support this in order to be good leaders for your people.

We do have a moral obligation to look after those who need our help. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me,” said Jesus. So go: volunteer at your church or hospital, donate money to charities, open a shelter for battered women, buy a sandwich for that homeless man on the street. Do what you want to do as dictated by your own conscience. Do what you can do as dictated by your own means. Take the responsibility of being a good Catholic or Christian or Jew or Muslim.

What we most emphatically do not have is a moral obligation to support a massive government program that will certainly make health care more expensive, ration care, drive up deficits, take money from taxpayers, and put faceless bureaucrats into the middle of decision-making processes. To suggest that it is somehow immoral to oppose Obamacare is another shining example of the megalomania that lives in our President like a tapeworm, hungry for ever increasing amounts of power and glory. Supporting a government takeover of health care is not being moral, it is abdicating personal responsibility. The idea that good Christians, Jews and Muslims must support Obamacare on moral grounds is extremely repulsive. It assumes that a man who spent 20 years attending a church led by a radical racist who Obama called “the best of what the black church has to offer,” a man who is right now looking for a new church to attend in Washington D.C. with the same dogged intensity with which O.J. searched for the real killers, a man who voted to allow infant survivors of abortion to be starved to death post-utero, and a man who counts terrorists and communists among his friends is in any kind of position to tell the rest of the nation the difference between moral and immoral.

While he’s adding new Commandments, Barack Obama should refresh himself with the ones already in place. “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me” would be a good one to remember the next time he decides that his Big Government proposals are the moral thing to do.

UPDATED to include a link to Hot Air’s video of Barack Obama extolling the virtues of Jeremiah Wright and lamenting the fact that people look for scapegoats in tough economic times. You know, like evil insurance companies or organized mobs of right-wing false witness bearers.

Nice Insurance Company Ya Got Here…Shame If Anything Should “Happen” To It

August 20, 2009

At The Corner, Mark Steyn has a post about a letter that Congress has sent to health insurance companies…privately owned health insurance companies…demanding information about salaries and compensation:

Doctor O’s enforcers decide it’s time to get heavy with the insurance companies:

Letters sent to 52 insurance companies by Democratic leaders demand extensive documents for an examination of ‘extensive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry…”

By Sept. 4, the firms are supposed to supply detailed compensation data for board members and top executives, as well as a “table listing all conferences, retreats, or other events held outside company facilities from January 1, 2007, to the present that were paid for, reimbursed, or subsidized in whole or in part by your company.”

You first. How come the compensations and perks of a vice-president in a private company are to be subject to greater public forensic examination than those of Dodd or Rangel?

They’re supposed to be representatives not rulers. George III couldn’t have got away with a letter like that.

Politico has the full story.

The bottom line here, though, is that Mark Steyn is correct. George III couldn’t get away with such a request. More to the point, it’s doubtful that Old King George would even think of making such a request even at his craziest.

This is the story of a letter, and may not get much play in the media, but it should. What we’ve got here is a government that is so consumed with its own power that it feels it can reach into privately owned and operated companies and request confidential information. For what purpose?

The reason is obvious: they are looking for dirt on these companies in order to blackmail them into supporting Obamacare. They (led by the revolting Henry Waxman) are essentially threatening insurance companies by requesting this information. The might of the Internal Revenue Service, congressional investigations, and public demonization are all unwritten in this letter but clearly hanging in the air like the sword of Damocles over the heads of the insurance companies. This is rule by intimidation; this is rule by fear. Letters like these are the rough equivalent of the Monty Python line that’s been paraphrased so many times, “Nice [blank] you’ve got here…shame if anything should ‘happen’ to it.”

Am I exaggerating? Let’s get serious. What possible purpose could the government have in demanding this information other than to gather data to be used as a weapon? Why would the government want to know about “lavish spending” except to accuse the insurance companies of living the lifestyles of the rich and famous off the backs of sick people?

It must be stressed here that the insurance companies have not been accused of any crimes, and that they are not being investigated for illegal activities. This is just a fishing expedition from the government. If they get away with this, where will it end? Will the government suddenly start demanding information from any industry opposed to a government policy? Will they send letters to private citizens demanding information about your family budgets: how much do you spend on entertainment? On food? On alcohol? When you combine this latest tactic with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg’s claim that he can retroactively rescind executive compensation to companies that accepted TARP money, you can see an agenda that is anti-capitalist at its worst and ferociously power hungry at its best (Michelle Malkin has details).

I truly hope the insurance companies will tell Henry Waxman to go fly a kite, but my fear is that they will do what they have so far done and bend over for the mighty Barack Obama and his rule by intimidation.

The Rat Patrol: The Tattle Tale Raid

August 18, 2009

Keep fighting the power, folks. After a large public backlash the Obama Administration has disabled the health care snitch program. Operation Go Flag Yourself was very successful, putting a strain on the White House servers and forcing the Administration to back away from this ridiculous program.

But have they really? Yes, the email address no longer works, but the Reality Check web site set up by the White House is still going strong, and still gathering email addresses.

At first the White House denied sending email to anyone who didn’t specifically request those emails. That was, as they say, a crock. I know, because I have never authorized the White House or anyone else in the Federal Government to send me email, yet I received at least two from David Axelrod, and a “Dear Comrade Friend” email from Barack Obama. The White House was collecting the email addresses of anyone who sent an email to the White House, and then adding those people to third party lists to receive propaganda emails like the ones from Axelrod. This is not simply a mistake. This is a violation of SPAM laws. It’s not really surprising to me, though. The arrogance of the Administration is such that a “laws are for others” mindset is to be expected.

Michelle Malkin has more.

Robert Novak, RIP

August 18, 2009

Following a few short weeks after the death of Walter Cronkite, journalism has lost another titan. Robert Novak was a conservative but, aside from that, he was a reporter’s reporter. He was scrupulously fair in his reportage, hammering both Left and Right equally hard. His contacts and sources in Washington D.C. were the stuff of legend. We will not see his like again. RIP.

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