Gabriella Stern writes criticizing the cash for clunkers program. However, idiotic as it may seem to subsidize private transportation, the program makes sense. Do the math:
The US imports 14 million barrels of oil a day, 200 billion gallons a year roughly. Total defense funding is a trillion dollars a year, of which we might say that at least half goes to protect oil supplies or protect the free peoples against oil suppliers. Say a new car getting 25 miles per gallon replaces a clunker getting 15, and both are driven 12 thousand miles a year. The clunker program saves 320 gallons a year, and can be thought of as lowering defense needs by 800 dollars. Not bad for a $4500 investment of taxpayers' money!
And that is before counting the environmental, health, and road safety benefits. Yes, it does have the disadvantage of rewarding inefficient behavior and encouraging the use of subsidized individual transportation, but altogether cash for clunkers is a good program even before considering the economic circumstances.