The popular "Cash for Clunkers" program, which recently received Congressional approval for another $2 billion in funds, marked a pivotal turning point in the evolution of bailouts: It made politicians realize bailouts are fine, as long as voters get a piece of the pork too. Or, as the saying goes, "I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it."
But Cash for Clunkers has been more than a boondoggle for auto companies and people trading in used cars -- it's been great for insiders, too. In a classic case of intended consequences, Wall Street has helped translate government support for the automobile industry into a nice mid-summer bonus for insiders. Executives at auto dealer AutoNation (AN) have used the boost given to the stock price to cash out of their holdings, and that's another sign it's too late to be long auto stocks.