'Cash for clunkers' too expensive?

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: A $106 billion appropriation funding operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan is headed to President Barack Obama for his signature today. The package overwhelmingly passed the Senate yesterday, and includes money for foreign aid, the flu and the "cash for clunkers" program. That's Uncle Sam's way to get people into more fuel-efficient cars. The debate, however, has been anything but a smooth ride. Here's Marketplace's Steve Henn.


Steve Henn: The bill will offer new car buyers up to $4,500 cash back from the federal government if they trade in an old car or truck that gets lousy mileage. The bigger the difference in fuel economy between the new car and the trade-in, the bigger the federal subsidy.

But what's the bill for this bill?

Judd Gregg: A billion dollars!

That caused Republican Senator Judd Gregg to sputter.

Gregg: By the way, in New Hampshire a billion dollars would pretty much run our state government for a considerable period of time. A billion dollers is a lot of money!

But Michigan's Senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow, argued cash for clunkers is key to getting Detroit motor running again.

Debbie Stabenow: This is an emergency for families and small businesses for an industry that has been the backbone of our economy for a generation.

Car dealers are excited, too, but the bill doesn't allow anyone to tow in a junker that's been up on blocks to collect a check. To qualify for the federal rebate, your trade-in has to have been on the road and insured for the past year.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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