Rasmussen: Majority still opposes Cash for Clunkers

posted at 11:55 am on August 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

When Congress and the White House rolled out Cash for Clunkers, it failed to achieve the kind of populist support that its advocates envisioned.  Now, after the debacle of its implementation, Rasmussen finds that a majority remains opposed to subsidizing car sales with taxpayer money.  In fact, Democrats only support it by a plurality, and that falls within the poll’s margin of error:

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans oppose any further funding for the federal “cash for clunkers” program which encourages the owners of older cars to trade them in for newer, more fuel-efficient ones.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of adults think Congress should authorize additional funding to keep the program going now that the original $950 million allocated for it has run out. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

These numbers are virtually identical to the findings in mid-June just after Congress first approved the plan when 35% favored it while 54% were opposed.

Democrats only favor continued funding for C4C by a 44%-41% margin, hardly a ringing endorsement.  Independents oppose it by a seventeen point spread, 51%-34.  Majorities of both women and men reject it (52% and 56%, respectively), while majorities in almost every age and income demographic also oppose it, with the exceptions being a 49%-37% plurality against C4C among 50-64 year olds, 47%-40% opposed in the $40-60K bracket, and 46%-45% opposed in the under-$20K bracket.  The only demographic showing a plurality of support outside the margin of error is black voters, and even that support is weak, 44%-34%.

The program got overwhelmed in short order by the response, but that was only tens of thousands of clunker owners in a nation where over 125 million voted for President last year.  The majority of people have determined C4C to be an expensive lemon, and Jeffrey Miron explains why at CNN:

Despite the program’s popularity, cash for clunkers is bad medicine for the U.S. economy.

The first problem is that under the terms of the program, any used car that is traded in must be scrapped, and key parts like the engine and drive train destroyed. Thus the program pays people to junk cars that still have economic value. A good friend, for example, is planning to trade in a car that is in good working order. Before the program, he had planned to use the car for another couple of years.

How can it make any sense for policy to encourage the destruction of working cars? Proponents of the program offer two rationales: that the higher fuel efficiency of new cars will reduce the use of fossil fuel, and that the increased demand for new cars will rescue the failing auto industry. Neither of these defenses passes muster.

Cash for clunkers will have a minor impact, at best, on the use of fossil fuel. Many people who trade in clunkers would have upgraded to more fuel-efficient vehicles within a year or two anyway. Thus the program might hasten the adoption of more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, but this is a modest, one-off effect.

Worse, cash for clunkers might cause more driving, since new cars are more fun to drive, and more fuel-efficient cars are less costly to operate. Plus, it takes energy to scrap old vehicles and produce new ones, so the net effect of the program might even increase the use of fossil fuel.

The Senate may balk at providing more funds anyway, as the Financial Times reports:

The Obama administration’s oversubscribed “cash for clunkers” scheme looks likely to founder in the Senate this week as bipartisan opposition mounted on Monday to the $2bn extension passed last week in the House of Representatives.

Republican senators described the scheme, in which car users can take up to $4,500 (€3,170, £2,710) in government vouchers to trade in their vehicles for more fuel efficient ones, as a “boondoggle” – or a waste of time and money – and all but threatened to filibuster the planned extension. …

Prospects for overcoming a Republican filibuster were also dealt a blow on Monday with objections from a number of leading Democrats. Dianne Feinstein, the senator from California, and Chuck Schumer, the New York senator, both want to raise the fuel efficiency standards of the subsidised vehicles, 250,000 of which have now been funded.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bingaman, the senator from New Mexico, objected to the diversion of funds from the $6bn allocated to the Department of Energy under the $787bn stimulus programme in February.

Both reports refer to the program’s “popularity,” but it is in fact unpopular, and the White House fumbles on implementing it make it even less attractive to American voters.  Don’t expect the Senate to get to this before its recess — and even if it did, they would likely pass something much different than what the House proposed, which means it would have to wait for a conference committee after the recess.

Don’t miss the Washington Times report on how C4C turned your computer into “property of the U.S. government,” either.


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