Can the government take a bad idea and make it worse? You betcha! The absolutely awful “Cash for Clunkers” bill may now be expanded to include vouchers for motorcycles, too. The details are sketchy on this
boondoggle finely crafted piece of legislation, by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, but if you trade in your old car or truck, Casey wants you to get a $2500 voucher for a new motorcycle because the mileage is much higher and Harley has a manufacturing plant in PA. Not surprisingly, like cash for clunkers, it gets the support of some in the industry it helps, but no one ever asks the rest of us who are now paying toward the purchase of a new vehicle for our neighbors whether we want to or not.
The Cash for Clunkers legislation began this nonsense by giving buyers money toward a new car or truck if the old one was scrapped and the new one gets better gas mileage. Sounds great, if you benefit, your neighbors kick in for your new car or send money to your business, how nice. Think about it this way, if your neighbor came over one day and said he wanted you to hand over a few thousand dollars so he could buy a new car, would you give it to him? Well this program doesn’t ask, it just takes it. But let’s take the logic a little further, what industries deserve to be given your money? If they are having a hard time in this tough business environment and they have employees, the same arguments can be made to support the vouchers for their products, too. Who’s drawing the line here?
Following the impeccable logic of the original cash for clunkers legislation, if any new product is more efficient than the old one it replaces, then practically everything should be scrapped and replaced. Every appliance in your home, plus lawn mowers, weed eaters, snow blowers, and if you think about it, why not your entire house? A new one is almost certainly more energy efficient, let’s just bulldoze it and give you money toward a new one. The local builders will be sure to explain what a wonderful idea it is.
The less mentioned side effect is the number of older, yet perfectly usable, products now removed from the market and those looking for an affordable used item find fewer available and the ones left are bid up in price, making them less affordable. Even with a voucher, many folks can’t buy new and when the government gives money to buyers of new products they essentially take it from others who need to buy the affordable used item but which has now become more expensive, it’s a hidden tax on those with lower incomes.
Frederic Bastiat once said, “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Unfortunately, we are now living in this fictitious world, or at least, many people are trying to make it come true.
Note to politicians giving away our money: You look more foolish and cynical every day by constantly adding people and businesses to your list of political beneficiaries, trying to buy votes with our money. Stop it.
Note to people and businesses taking the money: When you tell everyone how beneficial these programs are, you sound greedy and shallow and you think people believe you. Stop it.
I have a simple idea, let’s all buy our own cars, trucks, motorcycles or anything else we want within the limits of what we can afford. Then companies can build products that people want to buy. There’s no government bureaucracy involved either so we can start immediately. Let’s try that.