Cash-for-Clunkers Expands to Include Elderly

This article was originally published on Humorality, on August 10, 2009.

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The House of Representatives today announced passage of an expanded “Cash for Clunkers” program, the popular automobile rebate system initially signed by President Obama just a few weeks ago. The revised legislation allocates an additional $2 billion to the program, and allows cash-strapped households to turn in aging family members for rebates of up to $4,000. A companion bill in the Senate awaits a formal vote, pending approval of an amendment requiring that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) be the first elder trade-in accepted by the program.

Under the new law, citizens will be able to trade in elderly family members, and apply the rebate to the purchase price of a new car, or use the funds to help pay for a five-year or longer automobile lease. Participants will receive $4,000 for octogenarians and $3,000 for those in their nineties. The rebate drops to $1,000 for those over 100 years of age, which according to Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will “barely allow families to break even.” A special $2,500 bonus applies to anyone who turns in Senator John McCain (R-Arizona).

The Cash for Clunkers program, formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), officially went live on July 24, 2009, but ran out of its $1 billion funding in just one week, far short of its planned five month run. “Nearly one billion dollars found its way into the hands of middle-class Americans,” declared President Obama at a police department beer fest at the University of Minnesota. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later clarified the numbers: “That’s ‘billion’ with an ‘m’. The remaining amounts were used by Transportation Department staffers to administer the program.”

The original program was, by many measures, a rousing success, removing literally millions of old taxpayer dollar bills from the wallets of lower- and middle-class Americans, not to mention the elimination of some older-model vehicles. One Obama Administration staffer, who spoke on condition of age-anonymity, said that “by expanding the program to include ‘clunker grandpas and grandmas,’ the Administration expects to improve the financial well-being of working families, and reduce the overall burden on the Social Security system.”

“The elderly are one of this nation’s greatest assets. That’s why we are providing amounts well in excess of market value,” said the president’s teleprompter at the college bender. “I have met regularly with the heads of the Transportation Department and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, to ensure that the older models collected through this program are disposed of in an environmentally sound and fiscally responsible manner.” Upon passage of the bill, the collected elderly would replace departing military forces in Iraq.

Congress is also considering additional changes to the program that would allow depreciated property beyond old cars and uncles to be submitted as trade-ins, items such as aging factory equipment, dilapidated construction vehicles, and older states like Used Jersey and Used Mexico.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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