Generations of young (mostly male) Americans have schooled themselves in basic auto mechanics, saving thousands of dollars in the bargain, by teasing years of service out of high-mileage cars given up for dead by their previous owners.  For that guy out there (and you know who you are) who has worked himself through college, graduate school and into doctoral studies while squeezing an extra 100,000 miles out of a 1998 Saturn, it may be a little sickening to read this Daily News article describing the termination of old cars exchanged for new ones under the Cash for Clunkers program.

The grim scene has been playing out at car dealerships across the city: battered gas-guzzlers gasp their way to the grave while a caustic chemical is poured down their open crankshafts.

“I spend my whole career fixing these cars, now I’m killing them,” said Joe Chiu, mechanic and resident clunker executioner at Paragon Honda on Northern Blvd. in Woodside, Queens. “It’s kind of a weird feeling,” said Chiu, adding a clunker’s maker offers no insight into how long it will take to kill the car. “It depends on the engine’s condition,” Chiu, 35, said. “If the bearings are already worn out and there’s a lot of oil sludge, it’ll die fast no matter what.”

The clunkers’ engines wheeze, cough and finally choke to death – seized by two quarts of liquid glass, which slowly solidifies in their bellies. The destruction, mandated under the federal Cash for Clunkers program, can take seconds or minutes.

The economic rationale: in a bad economy, demand for new cars is stimulated by promoting the mass destruction of older cars, some (many?) of which are still perfectly serviceable.  The environmental rationale: new cars get better gas mileage.

And so we have the Keynesian determinism reflected this photo:

Queens mechanic with can of sodium silicate used to kill “clunkers.”

Which inevitably calls to mind this:

Pig slaughtered as part of New Deal’s hog reduction program

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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