Update: The House has approved another $2,000,000 in funding for the program, but the Senate must approved as well, and before the recess starts on Friday. The margin of approval in the House indicates a popularity too great for the Senate to fight, so they seem likely to approve.
Besides the Unemployment extensions, this seems to be the first bailout program that directly benefits the average family. Other bailout money has gone to banks, car manufacturers, and government contractors, all a bit outside the mainstream. In a mostly consumer economy, helping the mainstream consumers will be the most effective stimulus.
KQED's Forum just had a show on the subject. The Harvard economics professor seemed only concerned about the debt the US was incurring for this stimulus program, but not for any of the other programs. Cash for Clunkers has used a billion, is waiting for the approval of two more, and even if there is another extension, it is likely to be less than for 10 total. Haven't the other bailouts been in the range of tens or even hundreds of billions? And that professor wants to gainsay even a small step towards equality?
His main plea was for a gas tax. I often wonder about people who appeal for such highly unpopular and unlikely strategies. Are they really hoping nothing will change, like Bush Jr. and his hydrogen research?
In any case, I sure will not miss those SUVs and trucks that are mostly being replaced by regular cars. We should all watch for changes in auto fatalities in the next year, along with reductions in the US trade deficit stemming from reduced oil demand.
In fact, we should recommend our congressmen offer a second round of the program: if the economy continues to flounder, we will help the average family while saving oil; and if the economy picks up, the qualifications can require greater mileage improvements. Removing these gas guzzlers from the roads will go a long way towards energy independence. And don't forget that the rest of the world will see that the US has finally gotten off its good intentions and done something measurable. We might go into the next round of climate talks with a lot more clout & credibility.
I personally think that this sustainability program is one of the best for how it mixes public and private sector benefits. It will be a frequently cited example of efforts that improve both the environment and the economy.