Grade Your Government: Cash for Clunkers Part 2

By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - As we promised, it is time to reveal the grades East Texans are giving the Cash for Clunkers program. It's all a part of our new "Grade Your Government" series that lets you weigh in on the effectiveness of different government programs and agencies.

First on the list is Cash for Clunkers. In "Grade Your Government: Cash for Clunkers Part 1" frustrated dealers voiced their concerns.

And now, it is time to reveal their report cards. The government's goal was to stimulate a sputtering auto industry while making roads cleaner. It generated tons of traffic in showrooms, but was it worth $3-billion of our tax dollars?

"As a taxpayer do I like the fact that it's my money that's going to pay for somebody else to get the benefit of getting a car?" said Andrew Bertrand, with Classic Toyota. "No, of course not because I'm not immediately benefiting from it, but that's part of what we are as a society - we're supporting everybody else."

"I think it's an industry that's, obviously, it's crucial to the United States economy," said Dean Cagle, with Peltier Chevrolet. "And, as a taxpayer...I'm a little biased, but, I think it was well worth the money."

Now that it is over, we gave area dealers a chance to look through the rear-view mirror, so to speak, and grade the program's overall effectiveness. Our grading scale is simple, ranging from "A" as excellent, all the way down to "F" for failing. And, the grades are all over the road.

"I'd say a 'D'," said Craig Sisk, with Sisk Buick in Longview. "The program as a whole, I don't think was effective. It took a lot of $2,000-4,000 cars off the road that there are people out there that have a need for those cars."

"You got to give them a 'B'," said Bertrand. "They really tried. They did their best."

"I'd say in the first month or three weeks or so I'd give them probably a 'C' or a 'D', but once they were adequately staffed and were able to anticipate the needs, then it got up to an 'A' actually," said Cagle.

"I would say probably a 'B'," said Rodney Fields with Jack O' Diamonds. "I think their intentions were good. I don't think it was fully planned out well."

"We have so many problems facing our country," said John Ray, with Lively Cadillac GMC. "The Clunkers was way down the list and I do not think we spent our money wisely at all. So, overall grade for the program? 'F'."

We took the grades straight to Washington D.C., but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment. However, U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess had a lot to say. He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which helped put together the bill.

"I didn't think it was a very good idea to start with," said Burgess. "It was something I really had a lot of difficulty getting behind and, in fact, voted against it both times it came up on the House floor."

Congressman Burgess says he's already seeing the used-car market taking a hit and thinks we will see more of a ripple effect.

"I think the bottom line is: We did this to stimulate the economy, and I don't think it did, but I know it added to the debt," he said. "It added to the deficit so on the whole. We're poorer."

A lot of our dealers agree the government had no business in their business.

"Let's just let the market take care of itself," said Ray. "Let people buy cars when they're ready to buy cars, not when somebody force-feeds it to them."

"If you really want to stimulate the economy, give us the kind of money they gave to the banks," said Ray Cox, with Patterson Nissan.

But, everyone says at least they got their money, and some are seeing a glimmer of hope.

"I think that it's shedding a little bit more light at the end of the automotive tunnel of darkness that we're in right now," said Monte Hall, with Hall Buick Pontiac and GMC.

We tried multiple times to get supporters of the program in Washington to talk to us, first contacting the Department of Transportation. But, they said they weren't handling it anymore and said to call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The folks there were very short on the phone and declined our interview request. They didn't want to do it. They did however say that 99.8 percent of Texas dealers have been paid in full.

Nearly 100 East Texans graded the Cash for Clunkers program on by clicking on the Grade Your Government tab on the top left of our homepage. We averaged those scores and the program received a 'D' from those who participated.

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