WHEN THE Republicans can not even support Cash for Clunkers, bipartisanship has no horsepower.
In all the doom and gloom of the recession, this was the one economic and environmental program that was a smash hit, prompting Congress to add $2 billion to the $1 billion that was about to run out. The Department of Transportation said that 184,304 sales have been made so far under the program, where customers receive up to $4,500 in rebates to trade in an older car for a more fuel-efficient new vehicle.
The sales were a peek into a more sane automotive future. The top vehicles being traded in were Ford Explorers, F-150 pickup trucks, Jeep Cherokees, Chevrolet Blazers and the C1500 pickup, and Ford and Dodge minivans. The top 10 cars being purchased are Toyota’s Corolla, Prius, and Camry, Ford’s Focus and Escape, Honda’s Civic and Fit, Hyundai’s Elantra, Dodge’s Caliber, and Chevy’s Cobalt. The Escape is a small SUV available as a hybrid. The cars and trucks being traded in under the program averaged 15.8 miles per gallon. The cars being purchased average 25.3 miles per gallon. Mind you, that is a long way from the fleet average of 35 or 45 miles per gallon we ultimately need, but it is a start. Car dealers and the US automotive industry are smiling for the first time in a long time (many of the so-called foreign cars are made in the United States). Democrats are smiling because they followed Europe’s lead on a government program that works (now if we could only also follow Europe’s lead on universal healthcare).
But the Republicans? The Senate voted 60 to 37 to extend the program, with 33 Republicans voting against it. This was worse than the 31 Republicans who voted against Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. And, of course, the Republicans have declared war against meaningful healthcare reform, despite the fact that the nation has 46 million uninsured people, one of the greatest travesties in the developed world.