Who knew Americans were hanging on to so many junky cars? And it's not just in the South, where car-related redneck jokes are as ubiquitous as moon pies and RC co-colas (personal favorite: if your house is on wheels and your car is not . . . you might be a redneck). The government-backed "cash for clunkers" program has been a runaway success, adding needed stimulus to the economy and providing direct assistance to middle-income Americans and failing car dealerships as well. Alan Greenspan applauds the program as creating a sense of optimism among Americans while simultaneously boosting the economy. July will present the best new car sales numbers in years.
Imagine . . . you've been struggling to keep your head above water, maybe your spouse lost his or her job and you're been operating on one income. You're hanging onto that '95 Lumina with the broken a/c and headliner held up with safety pins and, even though it gets 14 mpg, you don't have a choice. You'd love to get a reliable, more fuel-efficient new car but you can't afford it. Meanwhile, the local car lot is in serious trouble. If it shuts down it's another blow to the depressed local economy, with more job losses and ripple effects throughout the community. Then comes the "cash for clunkers" program, which provides up to $4,500 on those old iron dinosaurs if traded in on a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.
It's a great feel-good program for a nation still recovering from eight years of death, destruction, and economic devastation. People who have never owned a new car before, and thought they could never afford one, are driving away with huge smiles on their faces, and dealerships teetering on the brink of failure have been thrown a lifeline. Finally, a smart government program where everybody wins.
So, obviously, Republicans want to kill it.
According to the New York Daily News, Republican Senators are vowing to turn off the gas pump on the wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program, saying it's just another bailout that heaps debt on future generations.
"This is crazy to try to rush this thing through again while they're trying to rush through health care," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said. "We've got to slow this thing down." DeMint vowed to work with Sen. John McCain to put on the brakes, saying, "The federal government went bankrupt in one week in the used-car business. I just think this is a great example of the stupidity that's coming out of Washington right now," he said on Fox News Sunday. "Our children and grandchildren can't afford to make these car dealers well right now."
DeMint has no problem spending endless billions in taxpayer money to fund endless killing and occupation of the Mideast and South Asia, but wants to deny struggling businesses and worried Americans the mutual benefit of this successful program. DeMint isn't a fan of health-care reform for the benefit of Americans, either. Or maybe he's just desperate to see Obama fail at any cost, even if it hurts the American people. It was DeMint who borrowed a page from Rush "Deaf by Temptation" Limbaugh's script and said of Obama's plan "If we are able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
Blocking health care, or cash for clunkers, or any other similar helpful program won't "break" President Obama. It will break ordinary Americans; it will break struggling small businesses; it will break families; it will break banks.
If the Senate fails to extend the program, it dies tomorrow. If that happens, I hope working-class families take note of those members of Congress who voted against this important stimulus package. And sends them to the junk heap in the next election.