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Friday, July 31, 2009 12:49 PM


Free Money Runs Out, Congress Authorizes More


With $1 billion already wasted Lawmakers Vote on $2 Billion More to Replenish ‘Clunkers’ Program.

The U.S. House opened debate on an emergency measure to add as much as $2 billion to the “cash for clunkers” program after a burst of demand exhausted most of the initial $1 billion.

The initiative to encourage new-car sales is still in operation, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today. Members of Congress had said late yesterday that the clunkers offer was being suspended.

“If you were planning on going to buy a car this weekend, using this program, this program continues to run,” Gibbs said. “If you meet the requirements of the program, the certificates will be honored.”

Named the Car Allowance Rebate System, the program provides credits of as much as $4,500 for the purchase of a new car when turning in an older vehicle to be scrapped. Lawmakers had expected the program to generate about 250,000 vehicle sales and to have enough money to last until about Nov. 1.

The funding was offered as an amendment to legislation by Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, which would ban incentive pay for Wall Street executives.
'Cash for Clunkers' Runs Out of Gas

Inquiring minds have found some interesting quotes in the Wall Street Journal article 'Cash for Clunkers' Runs Out of Gas.

Michael J. Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation Inc. said "It was an absolute success. There's a very compelling case the government should put more money into it. It's a great stimulus to the economy."

Actually a very compelling case can be made that the CEO of AutoNation is an economic illiterate. All the program does is shift demand forward. Those clunkers were going to die at some point. Now sales are up this year which will cut into next year's demand, at the expense of everyone not getting free money.

Why anyone should be surprised at the "success" in generating demand for free money is beyond me. There is always demand for free money. Yet, interestingly, everyone seems surprised by the "unexpected success".

If the government wants more "success", it can give everyone $4,500 for a car. Short-term demand will soar. But long-term demand for cars would crash for the next few years, taxpayers would be stuck with the bills, and valuable resources would be wasted on cars rather than productive assets.

Thus, the "absolute success" touted by AutoNation is in reality a tragedy. Handing out free money always is. Indeed, the more free money handed out, the bigger the ultimate tragedy. The housing crash is poof enough.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
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