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Sutton Blasts Japan for Crafting a Smarter ‘Clunkers’ Program Than She Did

If you’re a legislator crafting a bailout for the auto industry in the middle of a national recession, you’d probably tweak it in such a way that U.S. manufacturers benefit the most. That wasn’t, however, what Congress did last summer with its $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program, which offered up to $4,500 for drivers trading in their gas-guzzlers for more fuel efficient vehicles — even imports.

The result? Of the new vehicles sold under the program, the top three were all Japanese — the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Toyota Camry — and only two of the top 10 were built by one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Fast forward five months, and the same lawmaker who designed the program is now blasting the Japanese for excluding American models from Japan’s own clunkers initiative. The Washington Post reports today that Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who sponsored America’s clunkers program, filed a resolution Tuesday “calling for the U.S. trade officials to initiate a trade case against Japan if its program continues to exclude U.S. brands.”

“It’s outrageous,” Sutton said Wednesday. “They specifically designed it to exclude the participation of U.S. auto imports.”

This is no black and white issue. The foreign transplants do plenty of manufacturing in the U.S., creating thousands of jobs, particularly in the Southern states. Still, if the goal was to boost sales in Detroit, Sutton might have fought harder to limit the program to vehicles made in the U.S., as her initial proposal would have done.

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