A Requiem for 'Cash for Clunkers'

Just in time to act as an illuminating footnote to the ObamaCare disaster, a study has been released revealing that one of Obama's early "triumphs," Cash for Clunkers, was actually a badly-run flop that accomplished nothing worthwhile at very high cost.

The Brookings Institution study by Ted Gayer and Emily Parker finds that the 2009 program, which offered $3,500 to $4,500 for drivers to trade in their old "clunkers" for newer, more fuel-stingy models, fit the standard Obama practice of dropping vast amounts of cash for minor or ephemeral gains. Cash for Clunkers cost over $3 billion. It resulted in 677,482 trade-ins, with an average increase in fuel economy from 15.7 miles per gallon to 24.9 mpg.

And the end result? A savings of roughly 884 million gallons -- less than that used in a single week's driving.

Gayer and Parker assert that the program "saved" the auto industry, which is an assumption that cannot be tested. (It could just as easily be argued that lack of cheap transportation cost a large number of job opportunities, which in turn lengthened the recession.) Their suggestions for alternate programs -- subsidies for electric cars or ethanol production, both of which were already in effect anyway with derisory results -- also elicit considerable skepticism. But Brookings is a liberal outfit, so such meanderings are to be expected. It's telling in itself that an organization with such a bias should release a study reaching conclusions like this one.

A conclusion that the study fails to make, but that we're free to draw, is that the Obama administration can now boast of no domestic achievements. Apart from TARP and the auto bailout, which were Bush initiatives ludicrously expanded by Obama, every domestic effort that Obama has attempted has either left the problem at issue completely unaffected or made it worse. Unemployment, immigration, race relations, crime, and now health care, have all been subject to the Obama treatment and are all slipping inexorably from disaster to catastrophe.

This creates a new subbasement of presidential reputation, a flight below that inhabited by Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, one that Barack Obama has solely to himself. No wonder Jimmy Carter feels safe in lashing out at him.

Just in time to act as an illuminating footnote to the ObamaCare disaster, a study has been released revealing that one of Obama's early "triumphs," Cash for Clunkers, was actually a badly-run flop that accomplished nothing worthwhile at very high cost.

The Brookings Institution study by Ted Gayer and Emily Parker finds that the 2009 program, which offered $3,500 to $4,500 for drivers to trade in their old "clunkers" for newer, more fuel-stingy models, fit the standard Obama practice of dropping vast amounts of cash for minor or ephemeral gains. Cash for Clunkers cost over $3 billion. It resulted in 677,482 trade-ins, with an average increase in fuel economy from 15.7 miles per gallon to 24.9 mpg.

And the end result? A savings of roughly 884 million gallons -- less than that used in a single week's driving.

Gayer and Parker assert that the program "saved" the auto industry, which is an assumption that cannot be tested. (It could just as easily be argued that lack of cheap transportation cost a large number of job opportunities, which in turn lengthened the recession.) Their suggestions for alternate programs -- subsidies for electric cars or ethanol production, both of which were already in effect anyway with derisory results -- also elicit considerable skepticism. But Brookings is a liberal outfit, so such meanderings are to be expected. It's telling in itself that an organization with such a bias should release a study reaching conclusions like this one.

A conclusion that the study fails to make, but that we're free to draw, is that the Obama administration can now boast of no domestic achievements. Apart from TARP and the auto bailout, which were Bush initiatives ludicrously expanded by Obama, every domestic effort that Obama has attempted has either left the problem at issue completely unaffected or made it worse. Unemployment, immigration, race relations, crime, and now health care, have all been subject to the Obama treatment and are all slipping inexorably from disaster to catastrophe.

This creates a new subbasement of presidential reputation, a flight below that inhabited by Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, one that Barack Obama has solely to himself. No wonder Jimmy Carter feels safe in lashing out at him.