August auto sales reports have dampened expectations for a steady albeit moderate recovery. Automakers, which seem determined to keep production in line with sales, haven't done anything wrong. This setback is not the fault of automakers, suppliers, dealers or unions.
In the immortal words of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid." The Obama administration's much-touted summer of recovery never materialized, and some economists still warn of a possible double dip recession as economic growth has all but stalled.
So it's time to go back to the economic playbook and try something that was a proven success the first time: cash for clunkers.
Last year's program pumped up auto sales, generated enthusiasm among consumers and drove the economy to a couple of quarters of reasonable growth.
Congress should put together another program, simpler but broader, and get it to the president's desk this fall. Yes, there will be political squawks. But there is no better, more effective place to invest the remaining stimulus dollars.