Edmunds Says Program Cost Taxpayers $24,000 per Clunker

Remember the Cash for Clunkers (CARS) program the network media liked so much? Well, according to analysis from Edmunds.com the government spent $24,000 per car when you subtract cars that would have been sold even without the program.

CNNMoney.com reported Oct. 29 that only 125,000 vehicles sold under the program (out of 690,000) "would not have been sold anyway," according to Edmunds.

The government allotted $3 billion for the CARS program, but Edmunds' said that more than 80 percent of those cars would have been purchased anyway.

Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds' CEO, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal Aug. 3 pointed out that in any month there are 60,000 to 70,000 "clunker-like" sales. "We have crammed three to four months of normal activity into just a few days," Anwyl concluded.

Despite misgivings from Anwyl and others, the network news media embraced the government giveaway. All three networks described it as a "victim of its own success" AFTER it ran out of taxpayer funding in its first week.

Katie Couric heaped praise on CARS saying Aug. 3, "[S]ales reports out today show the Cash for Clunkers program gave U.S. automakers a much-needed jumpstart." While CNBC's Jim Cramer called it "money well-spent" during the "Today" show.

In clunker stories citing experts, proponents of CARS outnumbered critics nearly three times as often (between July 4 and Aug. 3).

Occasionally a downside was mentioned, such as the "five hours of paper for each car" reported by ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.