Stimulus Money Bought Many More Fords Than GMs

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When the US government passed the stimulus bill, it allocated about $287 million to buy cars for the General Services Administration. In doing so, the government demonstrated its own preferences among Detroit's automakers by spending almost half the money on Ford automobiles, as opposed to the now-government-owned General Motors and now-pawned-off Chrysler. See Uncle Sam? Now you see how Americans consumers feel.


In total, 45% of the money was spent on Ford cars, 35% on GM and 18% on Chrysler. Consider that the government owns the second and is trying to foist off the third to Fiat, one's first reaction might be: what an ironic embarrassment! But really, the Feds were just acting like aware consumers. This year's Consumer Reports (April 2009) recommended only 17 percent of GM models and zero perscent of Chrysler models. In that light, buying 18 percent of your new fleet from Chrysler might be showing a little too much generosity.

In the end, the money spent on cars is, as the author points out, a drop in the bucket with far more symbolic meaning than financial. And it's important to note that the government did not own General Motors when it passed the stimulus, so it would have had no way of anticipating whatever minor embarrassment comes from this report. But right now, the government is looking a bit like the guy bashing the college art project of a girl you end up dating, or like this exchange I once had with a friend after a high school bake sale.

Guy friend to me: "Weren't those oatmeal cookies kind of terrible?"

Girl friend to me: "Derek. I hope he's not talking about the cookies you bought from me!"

Me: "Um...Oh.." Gaping silence as I consider shoving entire bag of oatmeal cookies in my mouth as a gesture of support. "I thought they were...fine!"


Thanks to Conor Clarke for the hat tip.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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