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Gaia demands sacrifice

The wildly popular “Cash for Clunkers” program is another example of an Obamanomics zero sum game: wealth redistribution disguised as economic stimulus.

James Pethoukis is worth quoting at length:

An analysis by Macroeconomic Advisers forecasts that the program will affect only the timing of car sales, not total sales: “In particular, we expect that roughly half of the 250,000 in new sales would have occurred in the months following the conclusion of the program, and the other half would have occurred during the program period anyway. Therefore, we do not expect a boost to industry-wide production (or GDP) in response to this program.”

In other words, the program gets much of its juice via stealing car sales from the near future rather than generating additional demand. In practice, it works much like tax policies and subsidies to encourage women to have more children. Studies have found that women may have children earlier than they would otherwise, but they don’t necessarily have more kids.

The rebate program is also emblematic of the administration’s unwise approaches to economic policymaking. It borrows money to generate economic activity, which in effect borrows growth from the future, since eventually that loan will have to be paid back through higher taxes.

It picks and promotes a particular industry in a sort of small-scale industrial policy. It also places an emphasis on consumer spending as a route to renewed prosperity over greater investment — and isn’t that how the American economy got in trouble in the first place?

And for those reasons, cash for clunkers isn’t just a whimsically named government program that helps automakers clear out some inventory and generate a bit of quick cash flow, while also making average Americans feel they’re finally getting their bailout.

If that’s all it was, cash for clunkers wouldn’t be such a big deal. Rather, it is evidence that no one in Washington is learning any economic lessons. And that is a very big deal.

So what is the point? The so-called “clunkers” that are being traded in still have a bit of life left in them and could potentially be re-sold to those people who can’t really afford a new car (Rich Lowry has a list of the top ten traded in “clunkers” here). Instead they are being destroyed as a sacrifice to the great Gaia in a ritual that is part of what is fast becoming a national religion.

August 5, 2009 at 7:46 am
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