Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that the United States (and pretty much the entire world) has been in an economic downturn for quite some time.
It started in the housing market, where people who shouldn't have been given loans to buy a house were able to buy a house with no money down (like an 80/20 mortgage), or an interest-only mortgage. Or use a 'liar's loan' to say "Yeah, I really make $200k per year, so give me $600k for that house."
In short, people using borrowed money to purchase thing they never should have anyways.
But, this recession causes people to hurt. Like automobile manufacturers. After all, since banks have become wise to the game of tapping your house's equity to get the money needed to buy a new car, they stopped loaning money, and car sales are falling.
This does not bode well for the unskilled labor force, nor for those who desire to keep the dumb masses . . . dumb. So, the Great P-BO needs to do something to spend more taxpayer monies on . . . er . . . help the planet. Enter the "Cash for Clunkers" program.
The idea is to get older, inefficient cars off the road. That way, we can be "saving the planet" while we're driving in air-conditioned comfort. To this end, if you trade in your clunker you'll get money from the government when you buy a Brand New Car!
Never mind that most people will be getting loans to buy this new car, which means they are repeating the same behavior that got us into this mess in the first place. Never mind that financially speaking a new car is just about the worst thing you can spend your money on. Never mind that even driving a Prius you'll have to drive 10 years before the reduced amount of gas you use makes up for the cost of the car. No, you need to foolishly spend your money so that we can save our planet for future generations. Because global warming is bad.
On the plus side, does that mean I might be able to buy an inexpensive 4x4 crew cab Ford?