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August 5th, 2009
05:12 PM ET

Cash for Clunkers Q&A

It was high time for another Mail to the Chief* segment, and we figured what better focus today than "Cash for Clunkers" - the government's popular/reviled/confusing/out of $$$ rebate program.

Kyra steered a bunch of your Twitter and e-mail questions to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (with our good friend Ali Velshi doing a ride-along).



*Mail to the Chief is one of Team Kyra's regular segments; we ask you guys what YOU want to know from the Obama administration, and then we ask 'em your questions.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. mike

    i m canadian when i was 17 i had cancer i went through 24 mos of chemo and 30 days of radiation.jus recently i had open heart surgery,a new valve and a by pass , guess wat i did not hav to pay a dime towards any treatment ,and did not wait any time to get in ,it was right away i support our system and i think it works great u should follow us m we have the best mk

    August 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  2. Dena Rivera

    I wanted to let CNN know that the comments of Lou Dobbs lately are clearly racist. He is displaying a thinly veiled hatred for anything that is not "white" and his comments consistently reflect this.

    It is everyone's personal prerogative to hold whatever views they have in their hearts for whatever the reason might be. Mr. Dobbs however, represents CNN and is a voice for your network. It is for this reason that I will not be watching CNN in the future and will actively campaign online, to convince others to do the same.

    Mr. Dobbs and others are showing clearly now that they cannot and will not give up the antiquated and ridiculous notion that blacks and others are not equal to whites and that are not worthy of equality. The mood and tone of their tirades are coming across loud and clear to the masses that do not feel the way they do and who want to move rapidly away from this narrow and illogical mindset (given the gains by people of color and others in our country). That is unfortunate. This type of thinking is clearly outdated as borne out by the current young generation and is an unfortunate holdover of the "getting ready to die" generation. It is sad that you allow Mr. Dobbs to continue his completely irrational conversations which are aimed at perpetuating this ridiculous logic.

    When Mr. Dobbs and others (FOX) decide to step into the 2K's with the rest of America and finally accept the fact that African Americans and Latinos are equal and deserving, I will again look to you for delivering unbiased, non-racist NEWS.

    August 5, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  3. Carl Cauch

    All cash for clunkers is dong is giving more welfare to the auto industry. Will we be seeing in 6 months the number for cars bought with this money being repossed by the finance companies listed in the news.

    August 6, 2009 at 7:08 am |
  4. John

    When you report on the Cars for Clunkers program, you ALWAYS interview either the person who got the money for their clunker, or someone at the dealership where they bought the car, and they ALWAYS give the program raving reviews. Duuuh!. Why don't you interview an average John Doe on the street – someone who bought a fuel efficient car before the program started? ... those of us who are paying for this program and getting nothing out of it.

    August 6, 2009 at 7:12 am |
  5. suhail khan

    look at the bigger picture money comming from economic restructure or whatever in plain stimulus money hitting market for sure boost in auto sales ford already benefitted hope people in chrysler and gm wake up and build some gas conserving cars of the cars sold under this scheme 55 percent foreign car makers i love american cars so gm and chrysler should concentrate and try 2 grab at lest 25 percent of this market.IN THIS SITUATION INITIALLY WE WANT THE STIMULUS MONEY 2 CHANGE HAND

    August 6, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  6. PDX Joan

    Young Canadian treated for cancer, you are still considered a fiscal asset to your government. If you were 67, 77 or any age past retirement, chances are you'd be lucky to get medication for terminal pain because you are no longer contributing to your government through taxes.

    August 6, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  7. Jody

    It doesn't make sense to me that we are using US taxpayer dollars and not limiting the incentive to US manufactured vehicles. Unfortunately, the US auto industry does not have as many CARS compliant new vehicle models as the foreign manufacturers, plus with light inventory due to low sales volume, it seems as if most of the dealers here do not have available new vehicles. Shouldn't this program be geared to helping the US Auto Manufacturers as well as the environment? The whole structure of the CARS program seems a bit short sighted. Also, what are the ramifications of trashing those 'clunkers'? There are salvageable motors that can be repurposed that are being destroyed.

    August 6, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  8. TC Hartwell

    OH! Yea! "Cash For Clunker's" is the biggest "Joke" I've ever heard!
    Why! cause its not for junk vehicles its for the the dealers to tell you that if your vehicle gets good gas mileages above 18 miles per gallon then your "Vehicle" doesn't qualify for the cash of $3,500 to $4,500 back..So your screwed from buying a newer vehicle.Cash for Clunker's
    should be called "Cash For Gas Gusslers" & not poke the citizens eye
    who think they can turn in their vehicles for a better rebate back on the alledge Clunker's older then 10 years...If congress called this system
    of giving back to the community they're full of "Bull".To approved the
    extentsion of more money to these idiot "Auto Dealers" is a waste of "Tax Payer's" money..This has to be the biggest "Rip-Off" for the consumer todate...What else can our gov't come up with to screw the
    citizens of this country! It never seems to maze me!

    August 6, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  9. danny

    just another distraction, and another way of Taking Control of the Real Americans....

    August 6, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  10. Shannon Mooney

    I am very concern with this program. We are allowing alot of people to buy cars that they can not afford. How many of these cars that are being bought are going to be return because people can not afford it. This is giving our country false hope. Everyone makes it sound like getting 4500.00 is the way to boost the economic. I do not see this working. What is see is car sales up for a month or two and then the numbers will be back to where they were all along. This is not a fix but a bandaid over a big problem.

    August 6, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  11. John

    Several commenters above mentioned the fact that Cash for Clunkers money was going to "foreign" car companies. Clarification: The Toyotas and Hondas being purchased are US cars. They are built in plants right here in the good ol' US of A by American workers. The Toyota Camry has more American parts in it than any car in the world. Those crappy GM, Chrysler and Ford models have more foreign parts. Please find out what you're talking about before you start ranting and raving. The "Big Three" have pumped out nothing but junk since the 1970's and the American people are making them pay for their arrogance, bad management and poor decision making.

    Also – do any of you know: a) how to spell?, b) how to write?, c) how to use capital letters at the beginning of a sentence?, d) how to use paragraphs and, e) how to use commas?

    August 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  12. Michael Nelson

    The cash for clonkers may be an incentive to buy a new ride. The tax -free ( T T & L ) for American made vehicals would only cost the state tax revenue on vehicals sold by dealers. I wish the tax office would stop charging blue book on used vehicals bought at black book prices. Nelson in DFW, TX.

    August 6, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  13. Michael Nelson

    The bridge repairs in North Richland Hills, Tx. is costing $ 595,000 for a bridge with no sign of damage or age on it. The material cost is maybe $ 3500.00 , equipment rental $ 3500.00 , labor cost for two weeks $ 3500.00 , Misc. expenses $ 3500.00, total cost of preventive maintenance should be around $ 14,000 dollars. The profit is around $ 581,000 dollars not bad for two weeks worth of scamming the tax payers. The contractor must be working for the Health care and Govt. Ray in N.R.H., Tx.

    August 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  14. Ken

    CARS program is typical of the shallow thinking of Congress. It uses tax dollars to help those who do not need it, while hurting those who could use some help.

    Many people who would buy new vehicles anyway are rushing to take advantage of this program. Those are sales which would have occurred naturally in the next few months. Where’s the benefit in that? As soon as the CARS program ends there will be a period of even worse sales because of buyers taken out of the marketplace.

    Many buyers are buying luxury cars, Lexus, Infinity, Lincoln, Cadillac, BMW etc. Most of these brands are from sound companies. If the car company doesn’t need the financial help, we are wasting tax dollars subsidizing the lifestyle of people who do not need it.

    It’s well known many people are having difficulty paying living expenses. They can not afford the monthly payment on a new vehicle even with 4500 dollars assistance. Many people who can afford the payments are trading in vehicles which are far better than the ones those less fortunate citizens are driving.

    Those indisputably better vehicles are being destroyed while true clunkers remain on the road. Why? Because Congress failed to think about the used car industry which is a larger part of the auto industry. They could easily have included rules to allow vehicles with even worse pollution and fuel economy, and in worse condition, to be exchanged for trade-ins under CARS. In the end, the same number of vehicles would be recycled. Plus, there would be an even greater improvement in total pollution and fuel economy, while helping citizens who truly need help. The only additional cost would be an increase in paperwork to show the incoming vehicle is worse than the outgoing vehicle. Something for nothing rarely happens. But it could here! Using tax dollars to buy and destroy vehicles in far better shape than what many people drive is just downright hurtful, if not stupid.

    The Congress of the United States needs to get in touch with reality and think through ALL the ramifications of a program before throwing billions of dollars at it. Their bailouts failed to keep either GM or Chrysler from going bankrupt. They already spent a billion dollars on this CARS program. And now they’re set to spend two billion more dollars. Billions to subsidize people, most of whom don’t need help, while millions who do are ignored.

    It is no wonder we are concerned a Government healthcare program will be conceived and implemented as superficially as CARS. And that, because it directly affects life and death, is something I for one will not remain silent about.

    August 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  15. bob in ohio

    with all the problems the administration is having getting cash for clunkers to work,imagine the fun when they take over healthcare...sorry folks you'll have to return the kidney...the hospital got the paperwork wrong

    August 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  16. Ken

    CARS is superficial in approach since it ignores the used car industry and gives financial assistance to many who do not need help. However, I think it's a much better use of stimulus dollars than most of the spending because it goes directly to the consumer. The crooks can't skim chunks of it along the way and only a small portion will end up in a re-election campaign fund..

    August 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Dodie - California

    Cash for clunkers sounds good on the surface! However, if these people were able to afford monthly car payments, I would think they would have already purchased a new car. Therefore, my major concern is that many of these people can NOT afford $200-$400+ a month car payments.

    Result! Many will default on their loans. The Banks will one more time go running to the Federal Government whining saying, “its your fault we have all these bad assets” and want tax payers to pay for them AGAIN!!!!! I am so sick of this!

    Bottom line! Tax-payers will end up paying 10+ billion dollars, along with 100,000 repossessed and most likely trashed new cars! Good Grief! When will it ever end???

    August 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  18. Fred

    I don't qualify for the clunker program because my 1990 junker is too fuel efficient (22mpg)! Why is the Government rewarding those who displayed poor judgement in the past by buying gas guzzlers, and penalizing those of us who have been more frugal? I would gladly trade my car for one that gets 10 mpg more if someone would give me a $4500 handout.

    August 7, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  19. brenda boyer

    i dont think that we need a health care government runned. that makes me nervous. I hope and pray that they can come up with a plan that we that have to go that far. This is America this is supposed to be a country that is free but its looking more like something else.

    August 7, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  20. TJ

    Cash for clunkers? Is my math wrong, at 4500 per car 1billion dollars could not have been spent on the cars that has been reported to have been sold. Where has the most of the money gone? Can it be traced?

    August 7, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  21. Dave Holm

    I'm confused. I thought the CARS program was to replace low mileage vehicles with high mileage ones. When I tried to buy a Chrysler auto with a 25mpg rating, and trade in my 1987 Ford pick-up clunker, I was told my truck did not qualify. I was told my trucks GVW, at 8800lbs, was 301lbs too heavy. At 60yrs old and disabled, I no longer need a truck to pull a travel trailer, nor do I want to continue to get only 9mpg. This truck has never been used by me or the only other owner, for anything commerical. Why does the goverment want to keep this vehicle on the road?

    August 7, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  22. Maximus

    Why are you people in government so short sighted. The "cash for clunkers" should only be available and redeemable to purchase a car made by an american owned car maker, since we the people own most of those companies. All profits of our companies would then be taxable here in the gold ole USA instead of in japan or some other country..

    August 7, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  23. Doretha Gordon

    Dear President Obama:
    I have an idea about how to help solve the health care argument. Why not go back to the principles of what this country was founded on. Remember "A Model Of Christian Charity" (Winthrop) Americans have always been proud of helping Americans; so why not allow American who have healthcare carry an American who does not. During income tax season people are looking for dependants to carry to lighten their tax burden. So, why not offer a tax credit like "Earn income credit" for individuals who they choose to help out like; a uninsured neighbor, relative, friend or a church member. People like to give freely and this will hamper the bad taste of insured Americans feeling as though the government is taking their money. They will be helping themselves and the government as well. The government can require the insurance company to accept this agreement in exchange for its continued public service. Americans like paying it forward. Every household know someone who needs insurance that they are wiiling to assist on their own terms.

    August 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  24. thomas dudley

    so....we didn't learn our lesson with the housing decline and bankruptcies....lets load people up with a car loan that they can not afford.

    August 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  25. Dave

    Regarding the flaming controversy over Mr. Obama's mandate for government controlled healthcare. Why not a televised fireside chat by Mr. Obama, spelling out the boiled down factors about how government run healthcare will affect individuals. What about seniors on Medicare? Will they be required to sit down in front of a handpicked doctor and judged fit enough to receive healthcare? If they have diabetes, graves, heart problems, they won't receive a new hip?
    Will Medicare be stripped bare, so much so that seniors will die for lack of that benefit? Will babies under the age of two be denied medical care because they have not yet been socialized?
    Obviously, the people do not know if this is our destiny.
    Are we stripping Medicare bare, ultimately resulting in the deaths of fifty million Americans, to provide free medical coverage for illegal immigrants, thereby securing Democrat votes, say fifty million, from gratified illegal immigrants? Fifty million? That number rings a bell with me, harkening back to 1939, when government "Healthcare" resulted in the deaths of that many people, ending in l945.

    August 11, 2009 at 1:30 am |
  26. Alan Simpson

    My comment is I can't afford it. Being on disability I don't make enough I call disability poverty wages. I've heard how lucky I am? Is it lucky to be sick all the time? Maybe if disability wasn't at this level I could afford a new car.Just like health care lawmakers don't see beyond their desk.Health Care like Disabilty is 30 years behind times!!!!!!!!!!!


    August 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  27. Berk

    Dealers breaking the law??

    I was in the midst of a "clunker" deal today. I'm well qualified, verified, etc. Trading my reliable old 4×4 in for an economical new 4-cly replacement.

    During the transaction, the dealer tried to get me to sign a document making ME fully responsible for THEIR $4,500 reimbursement from the feds.

    How can THAT be? Are they kidding? That is between the dealer and the fed. Has NOTHING to do with me.

    Mind you, this is not "official" Cash For Clunkers paperwork. It is something the dealer whipped up on their own, and slipped in with the "real" Clunkers paperwork packet.

    I'm no genius, but only an IDIOT would sign something like that!

    What if the dealer is lax, and takes too long filing their paperwork to the fed? How would that be MY financial problem? What if Obama suddenly decides he's run out of money AFTER my deal is done, but before the dealer files? How is that MY problem?

    How is it even LAWFUL for them to DEMAND I sign this, and refuse the sale otherwise? That can't possibly be legal.

    Help me out on this, please.

    Needless to say, I walke out on that "deal" of theirs.


    August 12, 2009 at 12:14 am |
  28. RoBoBrain

    The cash for clunkers program is a great idea, however again this to me, this program is not a better way to help the environment or the economy and is not going to help the US deficit one bit. My view is if you took all the money that the government has projected or is willing to spend for the "Cash For Clunkers" program. We could develop a better and more efficient way for the US to grow and merge and become more greener. Do you really need a car in New York City or Los Angeles? If you think about it the answer is no? Why? Well the transportation system is great with subways, busses and cabs. Well the cost to develop these subway systems may come out to match or come close to the cost of the cash for clunkers program and the bailout for the banks. If we took the money and put it into building subway systems within areas that need it in places that don't have it and link them between cities like trains we wont need cars. In return using less gas and less effects to the environment. After all we are bailing out car companies that arnt even American owned and just offer American jobs so in essence the money isn't even going to the USA with the exception of work and a paycheck and small spending with taxes that payback the government its own money getting no were. That same worker can work in a subway system. We should be focused on removing cars not adding. And the methods to do so. I Love NYC! Id also like to add that any business owner can tell you when your dealing with the government and they owe you money good luck getting the payment on time, Ive seen companies go out of business because the government didn't pay their bill in time and they were running on credit maxed it out and had to close. Well were is the credit no were so the program is a no win situation and can be more detrimental then good.

    August 14, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  29. Nia

    OUCH! To be consistent with other tax laws (Note: Should not take for grteand!), perhaps the difference between the clunker cash amount and the actual blue book value of the car will be taxable on the federal income tax form next winter. For example, if the car had a book value of $700 and the person got a $4500 clunker rebate, then $3800 would be taxable? We shall see.I'm a part-time tax preparer on the IRS e-mail/news list (yes, there is such a thing) and I have not seen any guidance whatsoever on that topic. Yet.

    August 31, 2012 at 2:07 am |

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