The Spectacle Blog

Uncle Sam Got Suckered

By on 11.5.09 | 12:30PM

The $3 billion cash for clunkers program has been one of the most popular parts of the Obama administration's assorted (de)-stimulus efforts. Well, a new AP analysis shows that, true to form, the program didn't exactly accomplish its mission with flying colors.

Remember the so-called environmental benefits cash for clunkers would produce by taking gas-guzzlers off the road? Looks like many Americans turned in their cars for models that have comparable or even worse fuel economy — for example, an old Ford F150 pickup truck for a new one.

Given the program's goals, I would call that fraud.

The AP reports:

The single most common swap -- which occurred more than 8,200 times -- involved Ford F150 pickup owners who took advantage of a government rebate to trade their old trucks for new Ford F150s. They were 17 times more likely to buy a new F150 than, say, a Toyota Prius.

The fuel economy for the new trucks ranged from 15 mpg to 17 mpg based on engine size and other factors, an improvement of just 1 mpg to 3 mpg over the clunkers.

Owners of thousands more large, old Chevrolet and Dodge pickups bought new Silverado and Ram trucks, also with only barely improved mileage in the middle teens, according to AP's analysis of sales of $15.2 billion worth of vehicles at nearly 19,000 car dealerships in every state. Those deals helped the Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado -- along with Ford's Escape midsize SUV -- climb into the Top 10 most-popular vehicles purchased with the government rebates. The most common truck-for-truck and truck-for-SUV deals totaled at least $911 million.

In scores of deals, the government reported spending a total of $562,500 in rebates for new cars and trucks that got worse or the same mileage as the trade-ins -- in apparent violation of the program's requirements. The government said it is investigating those reports and said in some cases they were probably entered incorrectly by dealers or based on outdated fuel economy figures.

Whew! I can sleep better at night knowing the feds are going to devote more taxpayer dollars to covering up the trail — err, I mean — investigating fraud and abuse.

Now, who's up for the federal government controlling our health-care system?

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