The most successful Washington stimulus program to date isn’t even in the federal stimulus bill. It’s the week-old, $1 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program that gives rebates directly to consumers to buy cars in one of the country’s hardest-hit markets, the auto sector. “This is simply the most stimulative $1 billion the federal government has spent during the entire economic downturn,” said Rep. Candice Miller (R., Mich.), who successfully haggled with green Democrats for weeks to expand the program from rebates originally designed for only small, green-approved hybrid cars (see “Crush for Clunkers,” here.)
When you get right down to it, the program proves the GOP’s point that — if Washington must be involved — the way to stimulate the economy is by giving money back to taxpayers (via rebates or tax cuts), not through a $800 billion federal-spending orgy that hands out goodies to Democratic special interests from teachers unions to pet alternative-energy projects.
Ironic, then, that Congress’s rush to replenish the popular Clunkers program with more money involved raiding the stimulus bill’s Title XVII energy-loan-guarantee program. The energy loans have “been slow to be awarded,” reports the Detroit News (read: bogged down in federal red tape).
That’s right. To continue to feed Americans’ thirst for gas-powered automobiles, Washington has diverted $2 billion from the Democrats’ pet $60 billion to remake the American energy grid with windmills and other forms of expensive, non-carbon energy sources. Pelosi’s House bill called the energy loans “key components to the overall national effort to invest in renewable and low-emissions energy generation, as well as improved electric-power transmission.” Now it’ll be spent on good ol’ internal combustion engines.
A greater irony than the raid of Title XVII is the Clunker-bill provision that requires the destruction of traded-in cars, as I reported yesterday. The very people who want us to recycle plastic bags, glass bottles, and aluminum cans are now shredding finely engineered machinery that took enormous amounts of time, skill, and energy to create.
“Clunkers is a more urgent priority,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said today. Funny, and we thought fighting the global-warming planetary emergency by the careful husbandry of our dwindling resources was the most urgent priority.
— Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist with the Detroit News.