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Could I Really Kill My “Clunker”?

August 1st, 2009 . by economistmom

So, most of the rest of my family has taken our 2004 Ford Freestar minivan to the beach for the week. (There are several reasons why I’m not traveling with them.) If the van is good enough to reliably take them there and around and back, do I really think it’s a “clunker” deserving of this fate?  From this morning’s Washington Post:

“We poured it into that Dodge and it killed it in eight seconds,” said Brooks, pointing to another vehicle as he put down the half-gallon jug of liquid called “Clunker Bomb.” The chemical is sodium silicate. [It renders the vehicle inoperable, thus preventing fraudulent resale (or even continued use).] In red lettering on the bottle, it reads, “Engine Grenade,” and there’s a skull and crossbones over the profile of a car.

I don’t think I can do it… not even if the dealer says the trade-in value is worth (even substantially) less than the $4500 I would get from the Cash for Clunkers program.  (I mean, look at all the time and money (and love) I’ve poured into the (already) old beagle I adopted almost two years ago.)  It just seems very wasteful (and somehow “heartless”, even with a car) to prematurely end a “life” that still could be valuable to someone–doesn’t it?

It’ll be another week before I’ve got the van back with me and can discuss the possibilities with the local auto dealers.  I do still really want to trade the van in for a small, very fuel-efficient car.  I guess in the meantime I could hope the Clunkers program runs out of money again, or that the van turns out to be really unreliable (i.e., a true “clunker”) for my family this week…  No, I’m just kidding about both.

8 Responses to “Could I Really Kill My “Clunker”?”

  1. comment number 1 by: Steven Myers

    My take on this — http://learnecon.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-is-seen-and-what-is-not-seen.html

  2. comment number 2 by: Anandakos

    Mr Myers,

    And your point about the Cash for Clunkers program in this absolutely correct post is? That government can do nothing useful and therefore should do nothing? Perhaps you’re making the philosophical point that the perfect should foreclose the useful?

    I’m sorry, but we don’t live in the PRC. For the past three decades Federal spending has been between 17 and 21 percent of GDP. At this time it’s right at the top of that range and may go higher yet, but even if there were no “Cash for Clunkers”, no pothole patching, no bus buying, no extended unemployment, there would still be a swollen deficit because of the costs current and past of Empire It might only be 20% of GDP, but it would still have grown quickly because of plummeting tax revenues.

    Now I personally believe that the program is way too lax in its definition of a “fuel-efficient automobile”. But that’s politics; Congress wants to make sure that Detroit makers get their normal market share of the replacements. If they insisted on 30 mpg for the replacements most of the money would go to the Asian producers, for cars they mostly don’t make in North America.

  3. comment number 3 by: Jim Glass

    Cash for Clunkers boils down in simplest terms to taxpayers paying $3 billion to destroy maybe $2 billion worth of productive assets, on the idea that somehow this is good for the economy.

    If one wants to invoke Bastiat and his “what is seen and unseen”, this is a pretty good example of his Broken Window Fallacy — the seductive notion that destroying assets is good for the economy because people earn income from replacing them.

    Seductive … but toxic.

    And Congress certainly has swooned over it in this case.

  4. comment number 4 by: donna

    2004? Geez, I’m driving a 96 Voyager. And not clunking it, I can’t see trading in a perfectly good vehicle for something that costs too much. I’ll buy another used vehicle before I’ll buy a new one. Glassing the cars is just insane. Creating a new car uses way more energy and is more damaging to the environment than driving an older car. This program is just a handout to dealers and manufacturers, and wasteful. So typical of Americans.

  5. comment number 5 by: tom a taxpayer

    “Cash for Clunkers” is an environmental disaster. Scraping cars years before the end of their useful life is the height of profligate and wasteful consumption. The thousands of pounds of energy-intensive, highly-processed materials and advanced engineering equipment in cars is an enormous investment based on massive inputs of energy, mining, water, labor and materials. It makes no energy, environmental or economic sense to destroy the cars engines and render the investment useless years before the end of their useful life. The premise that buying a new car to get better gas mileage than a scraped car will save energy and be good for the environment is myopic and false when applied to scraped cars that would have had years of useful life. “Cash for Clunkers” is a net energy waster, and a colossal waste of resources.

    “Clunkers” is a terrible misnomer. By disabling the engines and scraping perfectly good used cars, the “Cash for Clunkers” program is hurting the used cars industry and the poor and moderate income folks who can only afford used cars. The “Cash for Clunkers” is largely benefitting the haves and hurting the have-nots.

    Like a mind, a car is a terrible thing to waste.

  6. comment number 6 by: Kevin Moore

    Cash for Clunkers is merely a government mandated transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the auto industry. It makes people feel like they’re getting something for nothing so they take advantage of it.

    In reality most of them come out about the same as they would have without the program if they’d just donated or junked their old car and bought new. I had been about to pull the trigger on a new Honda Civic Hybrid (to replace an older Civic) and had been monitoring prices on Cars Direct and other websites. So what happened when C for C went into effect? The prices jumped about…can you guess?…$3500. This ticked me off to the extent that I’m not even thinking about the purchase any more. So that’s one sale that the program actually lost.

    No one ever lost a buck betting on the stupidity of the American public (or their government).

  7. comment number 7 by: Jeffrey

    My 1981 Chevy Impala doesn’t even qualify as a clunker under this program, but many people probably think it is. But I love it. No electric windows or locks to mal-function. Manual remote outside mirror, not even a rear window defogger. Doesn’t get very good gas mileage, but it sure is comfortable. And best of all, it only costs $23.00 a year to license it.

  8. comment number 8 by: Cheap Cigars

    I think there should have been more cars included in the trade in.. because most of the bad cars were made before the years that were included in the program. Also, the program only lasted for a month and they ran out of funds.. imagine that, Obama had a bad plan. Ahem.