The “Cash for Clunkers” program is a good example of the sort of program which gives special interests a reason to exist–cash distributions to members at everyone else’s expense.
The taxpayers are the most obvious losers, out $3 billion once the Senate Republicans sell out yet again by approving a big spending Democratic initiative. So are poor people, who will find fewer cheaper used cars available. But in the Obama administration’s view, they should be taking buses anyway.
Then there are the mechanics. The federal government is using their own money to put them out of work. Such a deal. This apparently is “change we can believe in”!
The loss of such potential work — as many as 250,000 vehicles will be destroyed in the program’s first round — prompted Mr. Wiygul to question the federal program’s focus on dealers and big business at the expense of the little guy.
“How do we get on the special interests, special treatment bandwagon? How much is it going to cost me and to whom shall I send the check?” he said. “Who picks the winners in this game ’cause obviously the game is fixed.”
Betty Jo Young, co-owner of Young’s Automotive Center in Houston with her husband for 35 years, said her concern is that the federal program, unlike her state program, AirCheck Texas, doesn’t give car owners the option of repair. The Texas program, created for low-income residents, provides $600 vouchers for repairs to bring older cars up to emissions standards. Participants have to make a co-payment of $30. It also offers up to $3,500 to replace the vehicle.
“I have found my customers want to keep their cars. They’re doing good to make the $30 co-pay, much less buying a new vehicle,” Ms. Young said. “Why aren’t we putting money into repairs as long as the car is running?”
The auto-repair segment of the car industry, with about 164,000 independent shops, is a small portion of the automotive aftermarket that includes maintenance shops, parts suppliers and companies that remanufacture engine parts, among others.
The automotive aftermarket, a $250 billion industry that employs about 4.6 million people, could be among the biggest losers in the clunkers program, said Kathleen Schmatz, head of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association: “It’s everybody from the Fortune 500 parts manufacturer all the way through the supply chain to the independent repair shop.”
No one is surprised when Congress plucks taxpayers at someone else’s expense. But they aren’t the only victims of government bungling. As the “Cash for Clunkers” program demonstrates, Uncle Sam is well able to hurt lots of other people as well. Just ask your local mechanic.