An old car dropped in an industrial trash bin advertising the Cash for Clunkers program at Battlefield Ford in Culpeper in Aug., 2009. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) An old car dropped in an industrial trash bin advertises the Cash for Clunkers program at Battlefield Ford in Culpeper in Aug., 2009. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Affordable Care Act isn’t going particularly well so far, at least not in any way we can tell. Boosters tell us it’s early days, and what matters is the legislation working long term, rather than if the Web site works this month or next. So George Will dredges up another plan of President Obama’s, one that we can see the effects of right now: Cash for Clunkers. The idea was to reward people financially for getting their polluting cars off the road and buying a new car. But, Will says, a study found it didn’t really have much impact on pollution or jobs, and it mostly just moved car-buying decisions up in time. Nor did it change the spending habits of the people who saved money on the new car.

giffordj argues that prompting immediate car purchases, rather than a few months later, was in fact important, to the car companies especially:

Cash for Clunkers worked well. At a time when the auto industry’s headlines were dire, the incentive program brought people to dealerships by the hundreds of thousands, and the fact that it generated new-car sales three to six months sooner than people would otherwise have bought cars meant better survival prospects for desperate U.S. car makers, and therefore lessened pressure for layoffs of auto workers. A limited-duration stimulus, it was effective.

gardelito says even if it wasn’t effective, the study had more to say than Will cites:

The authors specifically say “the limitation of the data [on consumption patterns] strongly cautions against over interpretation.”
The program, as ineffective as it was, was intended to provide economic stimulus and to reduce emissions, not to transfer money to low income households who didn’t have the resources to buy new cars, as Will is suggesting. Will fails to mention that the authors concluded that a much more cost-effective stimulus program is to provide greater unemployment aid or additional social security payments, but of course, he wouldn’t dare mention that.

From FailedLiberalPolicies‘s perspective, Cash for Clunkers (bad as it was) did not adequately presage the flop of Obamacare:

Obambi’s unbroken streak of abject failures has exceeded even my expectations of him.

And cmsatown lumps together all the ways the government or tax codes reward behaviors that do the country good, and doesn’t see how C4C is different:

What’s the difference between cash for clunkers and farm subsidies and tax cuts for the rich? You are giving something to someone or asking less so they do something. It’s all stimulus, it’s all socialism if want to see it that way.

PostScript is going to leave an asterisk here* so we know to come back in four years and argue some more about Obamacare, this time with numbers.