6 Reasons to Avoid the Cash For Clunkers Program

Once again Big Brother is mucking around in the market, and once again the consequences are horrible.  Trade in your old gas guzzler for a new car and your Uncle will suck money out of your fellow tax payers’ pockets and stuff it in yours.

For cars a 4 MPG increase gets you the $3500 bonus, and 10MPG gets you the full $4500. If you buy a truck a 5 MPG increase gets you the full $4500 bonus.  A mere 2 MPG increase will get you $3500.

How does this suck?  Let me count the ways.

1) Buying a new car is stupid.  Nothing deprecates faster than a new car.

2) You wouldn’t visit your neighbor, stick a gun in his face, and say “I’m buying a new car.  Gimmie 4500 bucks.”  But if you take advantage of this offer you’re doing the same thing, just spreading it out across more neighbors and having the biggest bully in the world point the gun for you.

3) When you’re figuring out how much gas you’ll save with your shiny new car, be sure to figure in the energy cost of building it.  Making a new car takes the energy of about 1,000 gallons of gasoline, depending, of course, on the vehicle.  Hybrids take 1,600 gallons to build.  Do the math.  No matter how bad your gas mileage is now driving your old car for another year will do more to save the planet than replacing it.

4) Young people and poor people drive cheap cars because that’s all they can afford.  This program demands that the old cars be destroyed. The remaining older vehicles will go up in price, putting them beyond the reach of people who need a cheap car to get to a job so they can eventually afford a decent ride.  So you’re not only screwing the planet, you’re also screwing the poor.

5) Congress budgeted $1 billon for this program, but that’s already gone, so now they’re adding an additional $2 billon.  Republicans are pointing to this and saying “It’s three times the original cost.  So can you believe the Democrat’s health care numbers?”  This really pisses off the Democrats, because it’s a good point.

6) Now for the really scary part.  You won’t see this unless you fill out the online form to get your handout.  As part of the process you’ll get the terms and conditions screen, that leaglease that nobody reads before clicking the “I Accept” button.  It contains this paragraph:

This application provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the US Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personal, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign. (Emphasis added)

That’s right folks, if you take part in this program you give Big Brother the right to read, copy, monitor and inspect every single thing on your computer, and do anything they damn well please with it.  Your financial records.  That spreadsheet where you keep your passwords.  Your once private love letters.  All your e-mail.  That clip from “The Whole Nine Yards” featuring a full frontal shot of Amanda Peet naked.  Your favorite porn.  Every MP3 file (are they all legal?).  You’re giving them carte blanche to everything everywhere in your computer, and permission to use it however they like.

And if that’s not enough to keep you from the program, you’re beyond smartenization, and too stupid to be reading this blog.

Update: It turns out the onerous language was on the dealer side, not the consumer side, so it was only the dealers agreeing to let the feds grab all their data.  Furthermore, due to pressure and bad publicity, it’s been reported that they’ve modified the language somewhat.  Thanks to John, who provided the details in the fourth comment to this article.


15 Comment(s)

  1. Looks like the government is going to make that investment in the US car industry pay off no matter what it costs the tax payer.

    I like audio equipment and a lot of new equipment uses a lot less energy. Can I get get cash if I destroy my old equipment and buy something new?

    Don Venardos | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  2. On a slightly related note, I found out something interesting about the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Apparently, the home you buy has to be your primary residence for three years or else YOU HAVE TO PAY THE CREDIT BACK!! Now I do plan on staying in the house I bought for a long time. It has four bedrooms and is plenty large enough to raise a family.

    But what if I lose my job? What if I get laid off and can no longer pay the mortgage payment? On top of having my house foreclosed, my credit being ruined, and my family becoming destitute, I’ll owe the government $8,000 for the privilege! I can’t believe there wasn’t much uproar about this. It was meant to keep house flippers out of the deal, but like every government action it’s far too broad and sweeping and has unintended negative consequences.

    Incidentally, I’ve head of people who filed their tax return amendments in March who STILL haven’t received their first-time homebuyer credit. I mean the whole point of doing it was so that homeowners would have the money to reinvest in their property, but the IRS is sitting on their collective asses waiting several months to doll out the money. I used to support universal health care, and I still do–when other, more efficient governments do it–but I’m beginning to realize just how bloated and inefficient ours is, except of course when it comes to killing brown people on the other side of the world. :-S

    Brian | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  3. The one thing that every government has done very well, and continues to do well, is kill people and break things.

    Dave Hitt | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  4. That last item has been debunked a bit. I got the following information from PolitiFact.com, which I highly recommend along with FactCheck.org. They both take a very non-partisan stance and boil down statements which politicians and pundits say to the complete truth. PolitiFact also has a constant track of which promises Obama has broken and which ones he has kept (spoiler alert: he has kept all the promises which increase spending and government control, and has broken the few that would provide transparency or increased liberty).

    To dissect this one, we have to begin by noting the small amount of truth in their comments. The statement Beck read was on a government Web site for auto dealers, but Guilfoyle twists that into some incorrect claims about the government getting access to individuals.

    Here’s the true part: The Department of Transportation confirmed the language was on the cars.gov Web site, but on Aug. 3 it was removed. The DOT released this statement to PolitiFact: “A security warning on the CARS.gov dealer support page that stated computers logged into the system were considered property of the Federal Government has been removed. We are working to revise the language. The language was posted on the portion of the website accessible by car dealers and not the general public.”

    “It would be factually inaccurate to say that any computer that went to cars.gov would become the property of the U.S. government,” said Sasha Johnson, a DOT spokeswoman said.

    Although Beck began his segment by noting that the warning was on a part of the site for dealers, Guilfoyle then distorted the truth by suggesting it applied to members of the general public coming to the site for information about Cash for Clunkers. The allegations escalated as she and Goldberg issued warnings about anyone even typing in that address at home. And that’s just wrong.

    Beck seemed to concede that point when raising the issue again on Aug. 3.

    “Now, these blogs have come out this weekend and said, ‘Oh, there goes Glenn Beck trying to stir up trouble again. It doesn’t affect the average person. It’s just the car dealerships.’ I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just the car dealerships. Oh, so then I shouldn’t care? It’s not the average people? It’s just the average people who are in small business running the car dealerships,” Beck said.

    DOT’s Johnson said the government has no plans to take over the computer of auto dealers either. And, again, the language was removed on Aug. 3.

    But the language was there when Beck and Guilfoyle first raised their concerns. And clearly the language was overly broad, and bad enough to give ammunition to conspiracy theorists. That much is implied by the fact the government felt the need to remove the language. So in that sense, we think the DOT bears some blame for the confusion.

    Had she said from the start that this just applied to dealers completing transactions, we might be more generous in our ruling. But we think anyone who saw the July 31 program — in which she claimed “seriously, they can get all your information” — would be left with the clear impression that anyone who logged into the cars.gov site was opening their computer to Big Brother. And that’s False.

    John | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks John. I’ve updated the post and referred people to your comment.

    Dave Hitt | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  6. Another point on the boneheadedness of this plan: much of what got us into this mess was consumers borrowing too much money to purchase items they did not need and could not afford. Some people are waking up to this and beginning to save more and spend less. This plan encourages those with cars fully bought and paid for to trade them in for new cars which, even with the rebate, they will have to finance. It’s like giving someone who has $30,000 in credit card debt $1,000 on the condition that he go on a $5,000 shopping spree. It may be fun for a while, but in the end he is more screwed than he was before.

    TimS | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  7. Dave,
    When I checked the web site for my ’99 Mazda 6-cyl and my ’98 F150 V8 I found that even after the EPA lowered the mileage numbers, my Mazda doesn’t qualify as it’s mileage is still too high and my F150 does qualify but I can buy a new F150 with the same size engine and only improve my fuel economy by 2 MPG. Of course, I would then have payments for the next 60-72 months and higher insurance rates which would cost me more than the 4500 I would get for the old truck. So I think I will decline.

    P.S. Could I get a copy of that Amanda Peet picture?

    Brian Riley | Aug 4, 2009 | Reply

  8. Glad to help Brian:


    Dave Hitt | Aug 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. will am happy for the cash for clunker because america people can go back to work.

    George O. | Aug 14, 2009 | Reply

  10. You’d prefer your tax money went to what, exactly, rather than helping people buy greener cars? Halliburton? War? Dick Cheney?

    Heidi | Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

  11. I would prefer my tax money go to pay for only those functions of Government that are authorized by the Constitution and not to every irresponsible person who wants to go into more debt to buy a new Hummer. If you had bothered to read my previous post, you would have seen that the “greener” vehicle could get as little as 2 MPG over the old one. This administration is spending money it doesn’t have to do things that will cause more harm than good. And it’s only a matter of time till they take more of my money to cause even more harm. You would be better off going back to HuffPo where everyone else shares your delusions.

    Brian Riley | Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

  12. Overly defensive much? If you weren’t the center of your own universe, you would have considered the possibility that I WASN’T TALKING TO YOU. (Yes, please do take that as shouting. It’s still 100x more polite than my first draft, which started with F*** and ended with o**.)

    Heidi | Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

  13. Actually, no I’m not defensive (overly or otherwise) and I’m not the center of any universe. I did not say you were talking to me, I was simply pointing out that my last post indicated that the new car bought with “Our Tax Money” could be “greener” by as little as 2 MPG. It could even be a Hummer H3. I chose to respond to your post when I recognized the Liberal/EnviroNazi talking points, and suggested you may be more comfortable at another site with your own kind.

    P.S. *uck *ff to you too.

    Brian Riley | Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

  14. Wow, lets try to keep things civil here.

    Heidi, just because someone doesn’t want money to be spent on this program, doesn’t mean they want it spent somewhere else. There is an alternative option, and that’s not spending it at all. The government could lower taxes and let people keep their own money, crazy as that sounds.

    Now, you seem to be under a common confusion. I don’t know anything about Brian, but I assume that you were responding to Dave himself. I am pretty familiar with Dave’s views, and I can state pretty confidently that he doesn’t want the money spent on War, Haliburton, or Dick Cheney either.

    Unfortunately in this country there is a false dichotomy, that if you don’t supports programs put forward by the Democrats, then you must be a Republican warmonger who wants the money to be spent on the military and billion dollar weapons.

    Peoples views are must more complicated than that. There are those of us who hate the waste spent on social entitlement programs, but also hate the waste spent on American military adventurism through the world.

    Just because you disagree with one side, doesn’t mean you agree with the other. There are more than two sides to every issue.

    John | Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

  15. You got it, John. I don’t like most government programs. They waste an enormous amount of money and screw up the natural workings of the economy.

    I’m about half way through the book “Free Lunch” and it’s infuriating. I knew corporate welfare was a much bigger problem than people welfare, but had no idea just how widespread it is, and how much it costs us all.

    Hittman | Aug 17, 2009 | Reply

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