'Cash for clunkers' programs institutionalizing planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is something our current world leadership has aggressively campaigned against -- if you were to judge solely on the sound bites, it would give one the impression that the world's presidents and prime ministers were sponsored by The Story of Stuff. Sound bites, unfortunately, are much like damned lies and statistics. It is deep within the policies that we can see the truth. And the truth lies, not in tidy phrases or gushing descriptions, but in the incentives.

And thus, let us examine the auto industry. For the time being, we will ignore the gigantic loans and the virtual nationalization of the auto manufacturers and focus on the incentives. Specifically, the "cash for clunkers" program, which would pay an incentive to consumers who traded in a clunker for a hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle. Two cash-for-clunker bills are currently before the House and the Senate, and President Obama has expressed his support for the concept. These would pay between $2,500 and $5,000 toward the purchase of a new car, depending on the age of the clunker and just how inefficient it was. The House version would pay consumers who purchase U.S.-made cars more than those who purchase foreign-made, but more efficient ones; whereas the Senate version pays more for relatively "younger" clunkers.