Cash for Clunkers: "Go out and buy a car," says Obama administration

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    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (not pictured) is urging Americans to "go out and buy a car" this weekend as part of the administration's "Cash for Clunkers" program. LaHood said he expects the program to last at least through August.
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Concerned about the "Cash for Clunkers" program running out of money?

Don't worry. Be happy. That's the message Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood carried this morning. Or something like that. He actually said, "Don't worry. Go out and buy a car." Close enough.

Appearing on CBS this morning, LaHood tried to quell concerns that the government program was running out of money.

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"We are encouraging Americans who want a new car and want to turn in their old car to go to their car dealer this weekend and the money will be there for either $3,500 or $4,500," he said.

Noting that the House of Representatives yesterday approved a $2 billion cash infusion to keep the program going on Friday, LaHood said he expected "Cash for Clunkers" to keep on trucking through the end of August.

"We believe that this initial surge in the number of people who came in to the showrooms will probably taper off a little bit, and we believe $2 billion gets us through the month of August," he said.

If a reassurance from a government official doesn't exactly inspire confidence, many in the private industry appear to be saying the same thing. Michelle Krebs, senior editor at Edmunds.com, told the Monitor that she expected the Senate to follow the House's lead and approve the spending measure.

“There’s no risk to [the consumers],” she said noting that dealers are a powerful constituency and "consumers have been screaming for some sort of economic stimulus that benefits them,” not just Wall Street.

Is $2 billion enough to keep it going? Maybe not.

Brian Pasch, CEO of an automotive digital-marketing group in Rumson, N.J., told the Monitor that $3 to $4 billion might be a more realistic number.

Whatever the final figure will be, LaHood called the program the most successful of any of Obama's stimulus programs.

"This is the stimulus program that has worked better than any other stimulus program that was conceived," he said. "It's a very ingenious idea that has really worked very well for Americans. ... The program does work. It's not that complicated; car dealers are getting their money and the driving public are getting new cars, and this is a win-win for America. It's a win-win for our economy."

Not everyone's convinced it's that great. It's inspired at least one YouTube video opposed to the program (see below). Plus, there seems to be opposition on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, appeared to tweet her opposition yesterday to the extra dollars.

"We simply cannot afford any more taxpayr $ to extend cash for clunkers," she said. "Idea was to prime the pump, not subsidize auto purchases forever."

Obama rival John McCain doesn't like it either. "I not only wouldn't vote for the extra $2 billion, I was opposed to the initial billion," he told FOX News Radio.

"It's really an incredible process that we've gone through where recovery money that is supposed to be used in order to keep people in their homes and help the economy recover, we're now again bailing out the automobile corporations, two of which we own. It's remarkable," he said.

What are the requirements to participate in the program anyway? We've got all the info here.

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Hey, if we start our own Cash for Clunkers program, we'll let you know about it on Twitter. So follow us!

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