Philip Greenspun, the MIT prof and computer sciences guru, asks an interesting question today. If the U.S. didn't spend billions on Cash for Clunkers, what could it have spent its money on?
37 percent of Americans don't have broadband Internet at home (source). If we spent the Cash for Clunkers money on Let's Try to Catch up with Korea (95 percent of households with broadband, typically much faster than ours (one source)) a lot of Americans might not have needed to make so many trips in their cars because (1) they could work from home, (2) they could shop from home, (3) they could get information from home, (4) they could find out, from home, that some place they were planning to go was in fact closed.
Cash for Clunkers has been hailed as either an environmental program (generally discredited by most environmentalists) or an economic boost, the effects of which are far from clear.
Some analysts have suggested people who bought cars under the program, probably would've bought them anyway soon. In Annie Baxter's story, Scott Lambert, of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, disagrees:
"Most of the dealers think these are just conservative people who had hung onto their cars for a long time and took advantage of this, and probably would not have come in if not for this program," said Lambert.
The problem is we don't know and never will know. If the unemployment rate drops over the next few months, does that mean it worked? If it goes up again, does that mean it doesn't? If Minnesota's sales tax collections go up, perhaps that's attributable to new cars, but what if it stays flat or goes down? We know that consumers have paid down their debt in recent months and that's now a bad thing. But now they've got car loans, a big sales tax bill, and higher auto insurance payments. Does the injection of cash into the economy now offset their inability to spend more later? Will the number of auto jobs saved/created, offset the number that are on a pace to be eliminated?
In the unemployment figures released Friday, factory employment in the U.S. dropped by 52,000 but some auto workers didn't get laid off for summer retooling. Considering that some union contracts call for them to get paid -- fairly generously -- during layoffs, there may not be an economic bounce from that fact unless jobs were going to be eliminated permanently. And that's still the plan for struggling U.S. auto industry. How do we factor in the big boost in advertising cash to radio and TV stations and newspapers?
What exactly will be the measurement for success of the program?
"There's no real way to calculate it without making a bunch of assumptions," Lee Schipper, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Stanford said in a New York Times' attempt to measure the program.
... Seven years from now, when cars have to average 39 miles a gallon, what will we think of a government program that enticed hundreds of thousands of consumers to buy vehicles that got 30 miles a gallon (and that in 2016 will be middle-aged)? Had the program not existed, some of those buyers might have waited until 2012, when the new mileage rules begin to be phased in.
But in the end, "cash for clunkers" may help undo a previous government program: for years, small businesses got a tax break for buying S.U.V.'s, but only if they were the very largest -- at least 6,000 pounds.(15 Comments)
How can two aircraft collide with each other in New York City airspace as two did Saturday over the Hudson River? Aren't air traffic controllers keeping them apart?
There's a section of New York where pilots can fly without being under the control of air traffic controllers. It's no different than the area around Minneapolis-St. Paul, where there has also been the occasional mid-air collision.
As former CNN anchor -- and pilot -- Miles O'Brien notes, it's not inherently unsafe, but it does require pilots to pay attention to what's around them.
One of the busiest spots in this busy corridor is right near the Heliport at 30th St. on a pier on the Manhattan side of the river. The tour choppers there come and go frequently. They take off, go straight across the river and then turn down to the south for a trip to the statue. The chopper involved in this collision was doing just that. The plane was flying south - unsure what speed or altitude.
But here is an important point: it was a Piper PA-32 - A Cherokee Six or Saratoga (the sort of plane John Kennedy Jr. flew to his demise). It is a low wing airplane with a rather long nose. In level flight, downward visibility for the pilot is not so good. So the ascending chopper might very well have been completely obscured by the wing and engine cowling.
Why would private pilots fly in this busy corridor? The Statue of Liberty, and the breathtaking views, of course. Who wouldn't want to see those sites by air?
This is not, by the way, the same area where former New York Yankee Cory Lidle died in a plane crash. That was the East River corridor of New York, where airspace restrictions create a boxed-in canyon for pilots, forcing them to turn around in tight quarters.
There is no similar situation over the Hudson River.
Why did the aircraft crash? After an extensive investigation, the answer is likely to be the obvious one: They just didn't see each other.
(Photo: Flying the New York VFR corridor, by Ted Chang)(1 Comments)
Summer made its grand reappearance this weekend. Up to 5 inches of rain fell in the storms Friday night into Saturday morning. Then, after an afternoon of muggy weather, tornadoes reportedly dropped in sections of Anoka County. Trees were downed in Plymouth. From Twitter, we heard reports of wedding receptions hurriedly being moved indoors.
The picture above was the leading edge of the storms.
I shot this video of lightning in the distance -- over Anoka and Washington Counties -- from the safety of the News Cut Woodbury bureau. The lightning didn't illuminate anything particularly foreboding.
Here's some YouTube video scanning the sky of Plymouth as the sirens blare. No tornado spotted on the tape, however.
Is our drought over, yet?
If you see any damage when the sun comes up, shoot us a picture.
The boys on Updraft are doing the heavy lifting on the weather.