Why People Hate Congress

Cash for Clunkers Car

The history of Cash for Clunkers offers a prime example of how Congress can make a total mess of a good thing. The Clunkers bill, which we described last week, demonstrates a history of special-interest pleading, unworkable and undesirable regulations, and political maneuvering—finally becoming tied to a $106-billion supplemental to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) originally proposed Cash for Clunkers in January as a bill to promote fuel efficiency and environmental goals. Funny thing how the standards got rapidly watered down, and suddenly the bill was transformed into a “save the auto industry” effort by some Michigan lawmakers. The Detroit News and other major media now refer to it as a “program to spur new-car sales.”

People noticed that the bill would enable you to buy a new 16-mpg Hummer H3T in the light truck category and get a $3,500 voucher, because the mileage mandates got lowered. Others talked about how the bill would encourage scamming the dealers, buying up voucher specials, junking perfectly roadworthy cars, and so on.

In the Senate, Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) says that $85 billion in taxpayer assistance to the car companies is enough and, along with most Republicans, will try to get it removed from the supplemental war funding. (This is the first, maybe only, time I’ve found myself siding with Judd Gregg.) But wait, there’s more.

Barney Frank, D-Ma.With the Democrats in power doing all these good things for everybody, maybe they’re banking on the fact that people won’t notice. But when Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), right, calls up Fritz Henderson of GM to get a stay of execution for a parts dealership, anyone can detect the odor of influence.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) pressured Chrysler to keep local dealers open; the company agreed to buy back 100 percent of dealer inventories. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) maintains that Democrats have deliberately shut down Republican-owned Chrysler dealerships. And so it goes.

The Congress seemingly can’t keep its hooks off the auto industry. “Well, we’re just supporting our constituents,” they claim. Yet President Obama pledged to keep the government out of the auto business, and maybe it’s high time that he speak for his constituents – that is, the rest of us.

How can Obama keep Congress from interfering politically in the operations of GM and Chrysler? Or is he powerless to do so? Tell us what you think.



  1. This is not Obama’s call. It is up to Congress to provide the mechanism and enforcement. I had written about this topic when it first came up. I think that in principal, getting gas-guzzlers off the road is a worthy endeavor. When fuel is wasted it hurts all of us. But the process needs to have teeth, and it needs to be based on realistic goals. I have written to Senator Charles Schumer about this very issue and hope that changes can be implemented, as follows:
    1. New vehicles achieving less than 23 mpg will get zero rebate, regardless of the mpg improvement over your trade-in ‘clunker’.
    2. Vehicles achieving an increase of 1-5 mpg over your ‘clunker’ will get a $2000 rebate.
    3. Vehicles achieving and increase of 6-10 mpg over your ‘clunker’ will get a $4000 rebate.
    4. For every mile over 10 mpg improvement, you get an additional $25 every year the car is registered.
    Existing cars that get LESS than 25 mpg will see a surcharge on their registration for each year the car stays on the roads, as follows:
    5. Vehicles achieving 20-25 mpg will pay an additional $100 a year registration.
    6. Vehicles achieving 15-19 mpg will pay an additional $200 a year.
    7. Vehicles achieving 10-14 mpg will pay an additional $400 a year.
    Small business owners who use their vehicles for work will be exempt from the registration surcharge. There may be other classes of businesses who should be exempt based on the need for certain specialty vehicles (health care, security, hazardous material, etc). I leave that decision to the States, and Congress. By setting up the program to be at least partly self-funding, it will reach its goal much faster, with less pain for all.

  2. Do you really think he wants to keep congress from interfering? Sounds to me like it’s right up to his SOP

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