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Using Cash For Clunkers, But Against The Stimulus?

Yesterday on Twitter I was having a conversation with someone who asked a very interesting question – “I wonder how many people who were always against the stimulus are now turning in their clunker for a $4,500 gift from the government?“. I think it’s an important question to ask, as if you are against stimulus money, why would you take some of it? After all, the less you take, the less the debt might be from it. The Governors of Texas and Louisiana, at one point, said they weren’t going to take the stimulus money – but then Gov. Bobby Jindal (Lousiana) proceeded to present a check for slightly over $500,000 in grants to Vernon Parish. Jindal made no mention of the source of the money during his presentation. Instead, the large ceremonial check proclaimed the source of the funds to be “The State Of Louisiana, Office Of The Governor.” He took the stimulus money he had been railing against just a few days before and presented it to this parish, on TV, as if it was from the Governor himself. Isn’t there something seriously wrong with this picture? I mean, this is exactly the kind of question I am asking about this cash for clunkers deal; is it OK to constantly try to derail and put down the stimulus, but then take advantage of it and add to any possible deficit that comes from it? How about being for the bailout of big banks, but not for car makers or the unemployed?

I think it’s one thing to be adamantly against the stimulus package based on your own principles and political leanings; that’s perfectly fine and dandy. In fact, I totally respect it if you stick to that and don’t take a dime of stimulus money where you can help it – either from unemployment checks, the tax break in your paycheck, or the cash for clunkers program. If you truly believe that the stimulus won’t work and that it will only lead to higher deficits, then by all means – don’t take advantage of it! But what about those that put it down – yet still use it? Isn’t that just a tad hypocritical? Taking stimulus money, through the cash for clunkers program or some other means, even though it could lead to higher deficits in your opinion, just seems plain wrong. How can you say something is a bad idea, but then take full advantage of it to either A. increase the money you take home each week, or buy a new car with the government’s help, or collect unemployment checks for a full 9 months instead of 6?

What do you think? I am interested in hearing from both sides on this, as I want to get different perspectives than my own. You know how I feel – how do you feel?


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Comments (16)

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  1. I wish the government had been a bit more discerning with the legislation in the first place. I mean only 2MPG better to qualify? That’s ridiculous!

    As gar as taking the money if you don’t agree with the stimulus, I think that is a personal decision, but I agree with you. Integrity is always a priceless comidity and it’d be nice if people would remember that more often.

  2. looks like I should apply to congress for to fund purchase of spell check…

    I mean to say commodity

  3. John says:

    I don’t think it is hypocritical really. I didn’t want the package, I thought it was going to cost too much, accomplish too little, and there were better ways to use that (our) money… but it was pushed through anyway. I believe it was a bad idea to pass it and the bill to our kids. You know the old saying, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”. The fact that it does a good job twice a day doesn’t mean it’s a good deal since it’s broke the rest of the time.

    Referring to your post yesterday, I’m not going to go around a stretch of road because the job was paid for with stimulus money.

    I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face either. If there is money available to help me and mine, I’ll take it. It’s the American way. We love “free” stuff. If I don’t take it, someone else will.

    This isn’t like a stand against Wal-Mart. I don’t hurt the governments bottom line by not using that money. I have to look at the fact that my car is getting old, I need a new one so I can get to work, the economy sucks and I’d rather keep that extra $4500 worth of payments or cash in my own pocket.

    Besides, if I had more cash in my pocket because I paid less in taxes (city, state, federal, sales, cigarette, gasoline) maybe I wouldn’t need the government to give me back my money with strings on it.

    Finally, a last point to consider. Whether I take the money or not, I’m going to pay for it in higher taxes. The money has to come from somewhere right? So, by taking it now, hopefully I offset what I’ll be forced to pay in the future. I have the option of taking it or not, but I don’t have the option whether I pay for it.

  4. david says:

    True – but if everyone who was adamantly against the stimulus takes the “free” money, as you put it, your taxes might go up higher than if none of the people against it took the money. So although you were against the package and think it costs too much, you would take the money anyway – making the possible deficit just that much higher?

    As for higher taxes, well, I would rather the possibility of paying somewhat higher taxes than the possibility of a depression.

  5. I think you’re assuming that if a bunch of people rejected the money – it would somehow not be spent and the deficit wouldn’t increase. But I guarantee that the government would find a way to spend the money you didn’t take, and also find more ways to increase spending in addition. It’s just the way the government seems to be. They’re good at increasing spending, but not so good at cutting back in any meaningful way.

  6. david says:

    I am – but I am also assuming that if someone didnt agree with the “free” money being handed out, one wouldnt take it because of their principles on the matter.

  7. David says:

    I know this is a sad commentary on the current state of human nature, but I guarantee you that there are people lining up to take advantage of the “clunker” deal who were previously opposed to the stimulus package.

    I think that with the economy the way that it is, the concept of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) is alive and kicking.

    I took no side on the stimulus package, but even if I was against it, had I clunker to turn in, I would have gladly take advantage. I know of few people with moral standards so high as to turn down a $4500 gift.

  8. This is the great catch 22 of government spending. If you are against it and don’t take it someone else will but until we all stop taking it it will keep getting spent. As long as there are people out there willing to take what they didn’t earn the government will keep taking from those that did earn it to buy the votes of the rest.

  9. Frugal Dad says:

    David, I see your point. Many people rail against government programs, until they find themselves in need (or want), and turn to those programs themselves.

    Maybe we need an a la carte tax system. You want social security? Check here. You want a public option health care system? Check here. You want to receive benefits if you become unemployed? Check here. Your taxes will then be based on the number of “checks” you sign up for. Those who don’t want the benefits don’t pay the taxes. Everyone pays a base federal tax for national defense, operation of the postal service, the costs to mint currency, operation of the federal court system, etc. You know, the only things the federal government was constitutionally appointed to spend tax money on. Of course we know that will never happen.

    There doesn’t seem to be an easy fix, but I wish more of our solutions to life’s big problems included less government intervention, particularly at the federal level. Apparently, I am in the minority.

  10. I’m not particularly against taking stimulus money, as I’m sure I’ll be paying the money back and then some. However, the cash for clunkers is not any sort of deal, unless you can’t stand the thought of owning a 1 year old car.

    I would think that the people that this program is intended for have no business buying a brand new car.

  11. david says:

    You might be in the minority, but that doesnt necessarily mean you are wrong. You and I disagree, but it doesn’t mean one of us is right! 🙂 I dont know what the ultimate solution is – we all do, in fact, need government help with all the social aspects of daily life. (Police, parks, libraries, etc). However, I do kind of like your idea, but have no idea how it could be implemented and what would be “required” and what would be “optional”. Interesting idea, Jason.

  12. thisisbeth says:

    I bought a house this year, so I’ll be getting an $8,000 tax credit (I bought it after April 15 and am too lazy to do an amended tax return). I’m not in favor of the tax credit and would’ve voted against it if given the choice. However, once it passes, I’ll use it. It’s not like I can refuse to pay money to the government if I don’t agree with it, so if the government tells me I can take money against my will, I’ll do that, too.

  13. @FrugalDad,
    I like the way you think, but boy could that be a hornet’s nest. Anti-war folks would request a check box for national defense, and the government could tell them to move to Canada. People who are opposed to abortion could opt out of health care acts that support children, because it also supports Planned Parenthood.

    It appears to me that in a quest to give up personal accountability, society has requested that the government take a bigger place in day-to-day life, and they have. I really don’t think it’s something society will ever be able to unwind. Definitely going to have to post on this.

  14. Mike says:

    I heard the average buyer had a credit score of > 700.

  15. Corey says:

    What an issue! I am going to have to utterly disagree with those who say bad mouthing the plan then taking advantage of the benefits is hypocritical. It shows no lack of integrity or morality. I pay taxes, and I vote for people I think will represent my interests. I disagree with the Cash for clunkers program, but thought seriously about taking advantage of it. If the government is going to use my tax dollars to give rebates, whether I agree with them or not, it is my right to take adventage of these rebates. I think this principle applies to all government programs including welfare, tax credits, rebates, and any other “free” money.

  16. Patrick says:

    I don’t think the Cash for Clunkers is anything other than a plan to stimuluate the auto industry (it certainly won’t do much for the environment or our dependence on oil). But even though I am not necessarily in favor of it, I would take advantage of it if I had an eligible trade-in. My wife and I are looking for a vehicle anyway, so if I could get the trade in, I would be stupid not to. To me it would be like walking past a pile of cash in the street, or not taking the employer 401k match.

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