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Needed: Cash for Clunker Computers


It warms my tough old economist heart to see the new General Motors bringing back workers and adding overtime in response to the “cash for clunkers” initiative. As Americans get rid of those unsightly gas-guzzling wrecks in the driveway, the auto industry is revving up again.

But what of those high-tech companies which were supposed to be the economic foundation of the next 50 years? What about Hewlett-Packard and Dell? What about Micron and Intel? Shouldn’t we do as much for computer and semiconductor industry as we do for the auto industry? After all, tech production shows no sign yet of coming back.

What we need is a new government program: “Cash for Clunker Computers”. All you people with old Gateways and IBM Thinkpads in your attic or closet need to turn them in for faster and spiffier new models.

Just like the Cash for Clunker program, we’ll need rules. Your “Clunker Computer” will have to meet some minimum requirements: Too little RAM, slow microprocessor, too few USB ports, Windows 98. In return, you will get a rebate to purchase a new computer that will let you roam the Internet at will, downloading all sorts of video and multimedia (Advertisers will love it).

People will storm Best Buy, demanding to trade in their old hardware for the latest fastest model. And the bonus: Those old computers will be disposed off in an environmentally sound fashion, rather than spreading dangerous materials around.

But here’s the big question. Should the “Cash for Clunker Computer” rebate apply to any new computer, or only computers with a specified amount of domestic content—say 50%? After all, since the New Economy boom ended, high-tech employment has fallen just as far as auto industry jobs.

Suppose new computers are required to have 50% domestic content to be eligible for the “Cash for Clunker Computer” initiative. The advantage: We will stimulate domestic employment, as computer manufacturers shift production back to the U.S. The disadvantages: The new computers will likely cost more, and we could start a trade war.

Well, okay, I’ll just leave the question of domestic content up to Congress. “Cash for Clunker Computers” is the way to go.

Added 8/19/09 3:10PM :

I see that other people, faster than me, have already come up with this idea. For example:

Microsoft Announces Cash for Clunker PCs

NEW GOVT PROGRAM: CA$H for Sh***y Energy Inefficent TVs & Computers

Cash for Clunkers- finally, a bailout that is working

Great minds think alike. Go for it.


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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