Mileage Reporting and “Clunkering”

  • July 4, 2023

One of the reasons why used cars cost almost as much as new cars is because there aren’t that many used cars left. Not inexpensive ones, that is.

“Cash for Clunkers” saw to that.

It was marketed by the Obama regime as a way to “stimulate” demand for new cars at a time when people weren’t buying as many of them as the government wanted them to. In order to do that, the supply of used cars was reduced – by paying people to throw them away. They were styled “clunkers” – implying they were junk when all most of them were was old.

Hundreds of thousands of older cars, trucks and crossovers – 677,081 to be precise – were destroyed in epic, unprecedented orgy of waste funded by government (and so paid-for by taxpayers).

But it was also something more – and worse – than that.

After the wave of waste had passed, what was left was not much – that wasn’t new. This “nudged” people who otherwise would have kept their old “clunker” (and thereby, kept their money) into buying – and making payments on – a new car before they otherwise would have been ready, financially, to do so. Thereby “nudging” more people into spending above their means and buying into more debt, sooner. This, in turn, drove the cost of new cars higher as the artificially created demand enabled the car industry to build more costly cars with more standard features that people signed up for loans to buy because it was either do that or walk.

It is why you cannot find basic cars – or trucks – anymore.

It also drove young drivers off the road before they ever got on it.

When “clunkers” abounded, it was usual for teenagers to drive one. Because that is what a teenager could afford to drive. Everyone who today is older than 40 remembers because if they weren’t driving a “clunker”when they were 16 or 17 then one of their friends was. Like an after-school job at McDonald’s, a “clunker” was a stepping stone to something better.

But you don’t get to something better first, usually. That’s why the first thing is called a stepping-stone.

Decimating the supply of “clunkers” decimated the ability of teenagers to be able to afford a car. Maybe some were lucky enough to have parents who could afford to buy them a not-“clunker” but many did not. The point is very few 16-17-18-19-20-21-year-olds can afford to buy a car that isn’t a “clunker” on their own.

And so they don’t.

Instead, they spend their money on smartphones and video games – and stay at home.

Often until they’re 30.

It is not a coincidence that interest in cars (and driving) among the foregoing age cohort has declined markedly, something that has never happened before. Something that is the opposite of what was always the case, before. Pre-“clunker,” kids approaching 16 pined for their driver’s license – and their first car – because the acquisition of both was a passage into functional adulthood. They were still in high school and lived at home. But they could drive to school – to wherever they liked – in their own car. Maybe you were only 16 – but you felt like an adult and were much closer to being one because there was no longer all that much difference between you and adults.

But when you cannot afford a car what is the point in getting a license to drive? This is why an unprecedented percentage of young people in the 16-21 age bracket do not even have a driver’s license. It is for essentially the same reason that most adults do not have a private pilot’s license. Have you priced an airplane lately?

So, there’s that. And there is also something else. A precedent was set by “clunkering” vehicles deemed throw-aways by the federal government. What is to prevent the government from doing the same again – using a similar pretext?

For example, the “need” (created, once again, by the government) to replace the “revenue” (what government styles the money it takes) formerly generated by gas taxes that is winnowing as a result (again!) of government actions. Specifically the government’s relentless insistence that all new vehicles (not just cars) get ever-higher-gas mileage and for that reason, reduces the “revenue” collected at the pump with each fill-up. And the government’s pushing of electric vehicles, which generate no gas tax “revenue” at all, thereby creating the “freeloader” pretext the government loves so very much because it plays on people’s envy and sets them at each other’s throats, which is always a boon to government.

Enter the mileage tax. More formally, tax-by-the-mile, which works just like it sounds. You get taxed “x” for each mile you drive. The beauty of this being it also serves as a means to monitor your driving – and control it.

But how to do that? How, specifically, can it be done with older vehicles?

The answer is – not as easily. Certainly not as intrusively. Owners of vehicles made since the early 2000s can be taxed-by-the-mile very easily. They all have On Board Diagnostic ports that can be easily plugged into with a device that can automatically transmit data about how far the car is driven. No need to check the odometer once a year. It can be checked continuously.

Not so with pre-OBD vehicles. These would need to have their odometers checked – and that might be too much trouble . . . for the government. Or so the government will say. Maybe it will say that any car that lacks the “technology” to be so monitored cannot be used on government roads and must be turned in.

Maybe it will say such cars are . . . “clunkers.” Not paying their “fair share.” And – of course – contributing to the “climate crisis.” (It is no longer merely “change,” that being not quite scary enough).

Naturally, the government will “compensate” the soon-to-be-former owner – perhaps with a “credit” that can be applied to the purchase of a new EV.

That is how it’s likely to play out. Do not delude yourself into believing it could never play out that way – because it already has played out that way. Once the government does a thing – and gets away with it – the odds of the government doing the same (and worse) again rise to a near-certainty, on the same principle that a dog who gets away with snatching a porkchop off the dinner table will go for a steak the next time.

. . .

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