Cash for Clunkers is Theft

If you want to help someone buy a new car that gets much better gas mileage than the clunker they currently own, write them a check. But don't steal my money under the false impression that government can do a better job of solving problems than individual initiative can.

Members of the Obama administration admitted a day or two ago to being very surprised at how "successful" the Cash for Clunkers program has been. Because of such high demand, the original funding of the program has run out. It takes a pretty dense government official to NOT understand that if you give something away there will be a lot of people that want it.

The other thing they haven't thought about is that the Cash for Clunkers program is theft.

For nearly every problem that government claims to have solved, it turns out to have created at least one more problem. The Cash for Clunkers program is one such program that is fraught with residual problems. It encourages dishonesty. It forces Americans to pay for other peoples' automobiles. It convinces more Americans that more government control over our lives is just fine.

Today I requested that a friend of mine, who is completely in favor of the "Cash for Clunkers" program, simply bypass the Cash for Clunkers bureaucracy and write me a check for $9,000, so that I could much more quickly turn my two clunker cars in for new ones ($4,500 is the maximum that one can receive from the government for qualifying clunkers). Even though she is a U.S. taxpayer, she refused. She'd rather have the government force you to pay that much for my car--and for everyone else's cars who take the latest government bait.

With each succeeding generation the grotesque experiment in government control of just about everything--which kicked into high gear with the coronation of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president--has convinced more and more Americans that the responsibility rests with government to take care of...just about everything, including buying cars for people. They bailed out the car companies, which makes it seem to some people logical that the next step would be to bail out the car buyers.

Fewer and fewer people see the irony of government control:

--that even though the federal government controls even private health insurance and health care, shrill voices call for greater government control over health care.

--that despite the fact that the United States economy is controlled by government not much less than the Soviet Union was in its heyday, government-appointed and -brainwashed economists trumpet the Establishment party line that the current economic downturn is a failure of the free market.

--that welfare cases have begotten mass expectation of entitlement, and a sense of entitlement has led in some cases to crime, all because federal government originally concocted the inane supposition that it can provide for our welfare more effectively than states, cities and towns, or families.

--that child and spouse abuse rise indirectly from the family disconnect that has resulted from the expectation of the "entitled" that government--not parents--is responsible for providing for their children.

In this context, it's not surprising that thousands of people think that government is responsible to buy a new car for them. The Cash for Clunkers program is a natural step on the evolutionary path of "government is responsible for everything". Where in the Constitution of the United States is the Federal Government authorized to steal your money to buy me a car? Yet so far, 250,000 Americans have thought nothing of buying a new car and sending you the bill.

Congress is on the verge of approving twice as much funding for the Clunkers program as has already been spent. I'm sure it won't be hard to find 500,000 more Americans who are as content to steal your money as their 250,000 clunking forbears.

Did I happen to mention that your taxes are going up? Did you know that Obama's promise NOT to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 is out the window? With that knowledge, are you still in favor of the Cash for Clunkers program?


  1. I too am amused when people say cash for clunkers has been successful. What would happen if government gave people a voucher worth 20% of the price of new computer, new clothes, appliances, etc? Yep, people would go out an spend it. And somehow people are amazed by this.

  2. Exactly.

    And the price of computers, new clothes, and appliances would go up by how much, class?

    That's right...20%.

  3. I was thinking about this program this morning. I drive one of those "clunkers" that they are targeting. It's an older SUV that gets mileage in the teens. (I bought it six months ago so unless they extend the program 6 or seven more times I wouldn't be able to cash in on it even if I were interested.) As I thought about the program I imagined what it would mean for me - it would mean paying more money. My vehicle is paid for and I'm very confident that there is no car I could purchase with their $4500 "gift" that would not require me to pay more of my own money. If I were tired of this 18 year old truck I would still have to be able to get a car that cost less than $80 a month to break even (I'm assuming it doubles my gas mileage). What's really happening here is worse than simply theft by government - it's theft by government as a means to encourage me to chain myself to more debt - but then, that is the American dream.

  4. By the same logic, Bush stole MY money to launch a catastrophic and illegal invasion of Iraq. The total cost has been estimated at upwards of $2 trillion.

    Imagine if that kind of money had gone toward renewable energy back in 2003.

    While I'm dreaming, what if Bush hadn't taken our economy into a full-on crash and burn? Then the auto industry wouldn't need government help.

  5. David,

    That's the Keynesian way: encourage everyone to spend beyond their means and cause inflation to encourage them to do so (rather than to save).


    I completely agree with you. When compared with the highway robbery of George Bush's foray into Iraq, the Cash for Clunkers theft is very insignificant. I still think Bush should have been impeached.

  6. I am amazed at the number of people with whom I interact that seem to have no moral dilemma whatsoever when considering taking money from a government giveaway of other people's money.

  7. Frank, you can certainly make a case that programs such as "Cash for Clunkers" are theft. I also think you can make a case that those who choose to drive fuel inefficient vehicles are guilty of theft from the rest of the population via their auto pollution, which is a key factor in such things as a rise in respiratory illness and the "red burn days" along the Wasatch Front, and which impact those who chose for whatever reason not to have cars? How does "individual initiative" and the free market resolve with that theft?

    Speaking of "shrill voices," I think your post is a bit full of such shrill hyperbole itself. We can have a fair argument on whether there is too much economic control in our nation today, but to claim that the level of control is approaching that of the Soviet Union "in its heyday" is quite a stretch. And do you honestly believe that the rise in domestic abuse is a result of government intervention? Please. If there is such a rise, I think one might point more to the pressures of a cutthroat marketplace and the seductive marketing which that marketplace employs to manufactor need. And yes, I did say "if there is such a rise." Any statistical rise in the reporting of abuse may have much more to do with the changing public attitudes towards family relations: for centuries, using corporal punishment and harsh verbal discipline was considered perfectly acceptable in "traditional marriage," and even an encouraged part of conservative "family values." So to lay some perceived increase in domestic violence at the hand of government creep is dubious.

  8. I agree with you that government has not done a good job of holding polluters accountable, which I agree is a legitimate responsibility of government (not the Feds, however). Yes, my claim about America being nearly equivalent to the Soviets is a bit of a stretch, but the trend is toward Soviet similarity, not away from it.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "government intervention", but several studies have been done that show that welfare breeds entitlement breeds crime and abuse. Single mothers stay single for the welfare benefits, while their husbands abuse and neglect them and their children. It happens regularly.

  9. If you agree, as you seem to imply, that having a fuel inefficient car contributes to harmful pollution, which is a form of theft, then what do you feel would be the best way to end that theft? I'm not sure "cash for clunkers" is the best solution, but it is at least working towards that solution, which is better than just leaving it "to the market."

    I'd be interested in seeing those studies. From what I've studied, I think the occurrence of the "welfare queen" is overblown, an exaggeration resulting from bigotry against the poor and against government. And I know that there was plenty of domestic violence prior to the "welfare state." Indeed, progressive welfare advocacy rose in large part because the rapid social disruption of the industrialization and corporatization of society lead to a great deal of hardship for families: terrible work conditions for all members of the family, men often seeking solace from their frustrations in alcoholism, taking their frustrations out on the rest of family in abuse (or doing so because of the alcohol), etc. So I'm rather dubious that domestic violence is somehow rising to unprecedented levels, and that government is the cause.

    Additionally, as I mentioned, much of what we now recognize as "abuse" was just seen as the appropriate way to discipline wives and children a hundred years ago. Even now, just a few months ago, I got into an argument with a conservative member who complained about the rise of feminism and its impact on domestic violence. He was outraged that husbands can now be charged with rape: according to him, because the marriage contract/covenant implies consent, a husband cannot be considered to have raped his wife. Loathsome.

  10. BTW, why is not environmental regulation the role of the fed gov? Neither air nor water are any respecter of state boundaries.

  11. Why regulation of environment is not a role of the federal govt? Because it's not one of the handful of things listed in Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution that are allowed the Federal Government to regulate. If we passed an Amendment to allow such regulation, then I would have to change my tune. But even then, we've had the EPA since the 1970's and we still have crap for air and water in a lot of places.

  12. You don’t believe that pollution resulting from industrial processes or which are part of the package of commercial activity is a part of Commerce among the several States?

    Yes, the EPA hasn’t ended poor air or poor water. But it has made significant process in some areas. And I must point out that the EPAs work has been hindered by the tactics of administrations whose agendas have opposed the EPAs work (particularly the administrations of Reagan and both Bushes), such as appointing foxes to guard the henhouse. Perhaps if more administrations (and more Congresses) were less interested in promoting corporate interests above all else, the EPA would have been more effective.

  13. I absolutely DON'T believe that the fed govt has that authority, and I think the Founders agree with me. Walter Williams writes:

    the original purpose of the commerce clause was primarily a means to eliminate trade barriers among the states. They didn't intend for the commerce clause to govern so much of our lives. Indeed, as James Madison, the father of our Constitution, explained, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

    For most of our history, the Courts foiled congressional attempts to use the "commerce clause" to sabotage the clear meaning of the Constitution, particularly the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The Courts began caving in to congressional tyranny during the 1930s.

  14. If the federal government is not considered to have any role in curbing pollution (something of which those who established the Constitution had precious little concept and so cannot be expected to have included provisions for), then what possible hope have we of effective environmental regulation? What means do we possibly have of curbing the theft of health by those who choose energy inefficient cars for their own benefit while passing the cost onto society? How can effective environmental/health regulation possibly be done by the individual states? The auto industry and their conservative friends have already fought against the right of the states to set pollution standards for their products (California). And how can such state regulations possibly mean anything, with interstate travel so common? And what about industrial processes which can impact air and water quality of states other than the one in which those processes occur and which presumably permits that pollution? How could that not end up being the same sort of race to the bottom, which you and I agree is bad, with local and state governments courting big business like Wal-Mart?

  15. Way to go! I couldn't have said it better myself! Megs

  16. Frank,
    "The Founders" didn't believe one thing, they believed many things and disagreed very much. The Constitution gave the government the power to tax for the "general welfare". The Bill of Rights gave us the right to property. So the parameters were set and the debate began. The government can't take away all our property, but it can collect taxes i.e., take some of it. The way that plays out from generation to generations, from election to election changes. Thanks to the constitution and the willingness of the framers to compromise for the greater good in bringing it to us. Are we willing to do the same?

  17. In other words if cash for clunkers and other government programs are stealing, then the founders are the supreme thieves as they wrote that right of the federal government into the constitution.


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