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June 11, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Bay Ridge / McMahon on Line 1

Rep. Mike likes ‘Cash for Clunkers’

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The House of Representatives had just passed the so-called “Cash for Clunkers” bill — a proposal on which Bay Ridge’s freshman Rep. Mike McMahon played a small, but key, role — so it was time again for the latest installment of our popular feature, “McMahon on Line 1.”

First off, the bill: As the name suggests, the bill, which passed on Tuesday in a 298–119 vote, would give taxpayers a $3,500 to $4,500 tax credit for trading in a car for a more fuel-efficient model.

As the name fails to suggest, the car doesn’t need to be a clunker — just a gas-guzzler. Trade-ins must get 18 miles per gallon or less to be eligible, but just a four mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy (which is like shooting fish in a barrel, though with an environmentally safe gun, hopefully), gets the owner a $3,500 credit.

A 10-mpg increase gets you the full $4,500.

This sounded a lot like a way of rewarding Hummer drivers who have buyer’s remorse every time they fill up (twice a day, no doubt), so we got McMahon on the horn to explain the bill.

“It’s a two-pronged approach to dealing with the economy and the environment,” he said. “It’s a classic win-win. We’re stimulating the car market with new purchase and at the same time decreasing emissions.”

We still thought it sounded like a handout.

“But it will also stimulate the economy,” McMahon said. “We’re creating jobs in factories and getting the market going. It’ll provide the impetus to get people to buy a new car.”

Then, ever the German speaker, McMahon threw out the ultimate trump card: the Europeans did it.

“In Germany, they had a similar program and they could not produce enough cars to meet demand,” he said.

We pointed out that in Germany, drivers have another big incentive for reducing their consumption of fuel: it costs $6 a gallon. And Germans needed to trade in a real clunker — at least nine years old — not merely go from 18 mpg to 22 to get a cool $3,500.

On a personal level, McMahon played a small role in getting the bill to the floor. Originally, it was part of a much larger energy bill that isn’t going to be moved until the fall. Several freshmen legislators — and, remember, McMahon is the freshman class whip — convinced Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make “Cash for Clunkers” its own bill.

“The process was good,” he said. “We made it go faster.”

McMahon said he has not decided whether to trade in his 2003 Honda Odyssey.

“It gets in the 18- to 23-mile-per-gallon range, so that’s pretty good,” he said.

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Reader Feedback

Waiting2Trade says:
This will help new car sales and the manufacturing industry (JOBS). Our daughter drives an older SUV (15 mpg) and I would very much like to trade it for a newer more fuel efficient vehicle. But when you go to trade as you well know you don’t get much for your trade with having an older car, making it discouraging to want to buy a new car. I don’t mind owing more for a reliable car that will be under warranty. It will give me the peace of mind knowing our daughter has something reliable to drive back and forth to college in. I do know people are WAITING for this to pass and by WAITING it only hurts car sales even more. That’s why its so important to get this passed as soon as possible. It worked in Europe to stimulate the economy it will work here too. It pasted overwhelming in the House, now if only the Senate will get it together. The President’s for it and the American people are too. This needs to be done A.S.A.P.
June 11, 2009, 2:37 am
mike from GP says:
Why are my taxes going to people to buy more cars? The last thing this country needs is more cars?

Jobs? You want jobs? Have the gov fund a massive build out of public transit. Don't fund a mode of transportation that is inherently unsustainable and which has no future.
June 11, 2009, 9:11 am
Rhywun from Bay Ridge says:
Why are my taxes going to people to buy more cars?

Because the UAW is more powerful than the TWU?
June 11, 2009, 11:21 am
Boris from Midland Beach (SI) says:
This bill follows the good old tradition of the Bush years for passing legislation that lines the pockets of big corporations. The biggest chunk of the $3500 will stay in the pockets of dealers and auto company shareholders- people who deserve taxpayer money the least. Worst of all, this hurts everybody else by promoting car use.

I helped vote McMahon into office, but if this bill passes he definitely won't get my vote ever again.
June 11, 2009, 11:24 am
karenc from nyc says:
60% the cars that are currently donated to charity will now be eligible for a $3500 or $4500 voucher under the cash for clunkers program. Since the tax deduction for donating a car is only $500 or what the car sells charities won't be able to compete with the program and charitable car donation will end. A better idea is to just change the amount a person can deduct for donating their car back to the book value. That way every car is eligible, the government doesn't have to spend $4 million of our dollars giving away vouchers and trying to administer a program that is way too convoluted!
June 11, 2009, 1:32 pm
Larry Harts from Bunker Hill says:
I love this cash for clunker bill,, so much so that i allready have my new truck picked out, but then i read the full text of the bill and found out my 1979 ford van is too old,, how could something be to old to be scrapped, for some reason they only want to scrap the 25 year old and newer cars, and not the older ones,,
i wonder what that reason could be, is my old van now a classic
June 11, 2009, 1:59 pm
ILIKEMIKE from FORESTHILLS says:
Mike is on the right track. Why shouldn't people get a break for buying a new car when it reduces pollution thus improving the air? Summary:

1. less pollution = helps everyone
2. spur the economy = helps everyone
3. less oil dependence = helps all Americans

I would like to add one thing: the down side is that it adds to the deficit....and we're all paying for that..... but, it costs money to MAKE money......which everyone in business understands.
June 12, 2009, 8:21 am
Harry from Bay Ridge says:
Out of curiosity ... is there anything newsworthy going on in Bay Ridge other than these McMahon reports, a smelly pier, and the police blotter?
I mean, it's a pretty big neighborhood ...
June 12, 2009, 1:41 pm

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