“Cash for Clunkers” Is a Glorious Success! (Pause for Laughs), or, Why The Daily Show Just Isn’t Funny AnymoreTuesday, August 4th, 2009
It really isn’t. He’s given them plenty of material, but the show just doesn’t have the same claws for Obama that it had for Bush. Even when Jon Stewart occasionally goes after Obama, it’s of the why do you have to be so awesome, Mr. President? variety. Hardy-har.
None of this is really surprising. Just disappointing.
Stewart’s interviewing skills are suffering, too. When he interviews people he disagrees with, he can be brilliant. When he interviews Democrats, he tends to sound like he’s hosting The Chris Farley Show. Last time I watched the show, Stewart was interviewing HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius about Obamacare. At one point, Stewart asked if, once the government is paying for more of the population’s health care, the government will take a more active role in trying to influence lifestyle choices. That’s a legitimate concern. But Stewart asked the question in his sneering “this is what the idiots on the other side are saying” voice. Sebelius replied that the government did have a financial interest in preventing smoking, obesity, and such. Stewart then damn-near made a point. He asked if preventing early death would really save taxpayers money. It actually doesn’t. But again, he asked it in a “aren’t your opponents stupid?” tone of voice, and never made Sebelius actually answer the question.
Anyway, on to the point of this post. Last night, Stewart mentioned the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and credulously and uncritically repeated the Obama administration’s line that the program as been an unqualified success. Now maybe the show has taken some real shots at Cash for Clunkers in prior episodes. I don’t watch regularly any more. Seems to me, though, there’s quite a bit of TDS sarcastic humor to be mined from all of this. You mean the government is offering people free money . . . and they’re taking it? And they’re measuring the program’s success by how many people . . . are willing to take free money? Shocker that it’s been so succesfull, huh?
There’s also the laughable idea that the government is ordering the destruction of tens of thousands of used automobiles it paid people thousands of dollars to exchange . . . for new cars that may get no more than an added four miles per gallon. And all in the name of saving energy. I’m no television comedy writer, but if they wanted to, the creative minds at TDS could certainly have gotten some mileage (sorry) out of the idea that the government’s energy savings equation looks something like this:
(all of the energy that went into making the old car) + (the energy it will take to destroy it) + (all of the energy it took to make the new car) + ($3,500) < an extra four miles per gallon!
Somehow, Stewart was only able to find humor in the program’s critics, who frankly make some pretty good points.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
Stewart might have looked to USA Today for inspiration. From the paper’s lead editorial yesterday:
From its outset cash for clunkers has been more about rewarding two politically powerful industries — automakers and auto dealers — than about promoting energy efficiency or juicing the economy.
As a way to improve mileage, the program has always been a farce. Car buyers would qualify for a $3,500 credit with trade-ins that net just four additional miles per gallon. With 10 additional mpg, they’d get $4,500. (For light trucks and SUVs the numbers are even smaller: two and five.) Since all trade-ins must get 18 miles per gallon or worse, it provides no incentive whatsoever to buy any cars getting greater than 28 miles per gallon, because that is a segment of the market where the foreign makers are strong…
As economic stimulus the program is bogus as well. The money allocated is enough to generate about 250,000 trade-ins. While that may seem like a lot, about 200,000 would have happened anyway industry experts say.If taxpayers are spending $1 billion for about 50,000 additional car purchases that comes to about $20,000 per car.
In theory, the first allocation clears out all of the people who would have traded in anyway, so any additional money could be more stimulative to the economy. That may be so. But if the best that could be said for spending another billion or two is that it won’t be wasted like the first billion, it makes for a pretty weak argument.
So far the program has actually been de-stimulative to the economy. That’s because people in the market have stalled, in some cases since February when the idea was first floated, waiting to take advantage of the sweet deal from the taxpayer.
Now, with buyers pouring into showrooms, it has created an enormous spike in demand, stretching the available inventory and removing the need for dealers to offer even the most routine of incentives.
Note to Stewart: Reverence isn’t funny. You need to decide if you’re a comedian or a shill.
Unfortunately, it looks you already have.