Hey, things could be worse.

That, in a nutshell, is the administration’s rallying cry about the economy.

Take the $2.85 billion "cash for clunkers" program. The administration calls it a huge success that encouraged economic activity.

An article in the Wall Street Journal, however, indicates that "cash for clunkers" was a real clunker:

It's impossible to test what would have happened without cash for clunkers because there's no control group. But Messrs. Mian and Sufi do the next best thing by looking at how clunkers were distributed around the country. Comparing high-clunker areas to low-clunker areas—and thus the areas that were more "stimulated"—allowed them to measure relative economic outcomes.

Lo, Messrs. Mian and Sufi found in their paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research that there was "no noticeable difference" in economic outcomes among the 957 metropolitan areas they studied. They did detect an economic blip in cities where the auto industry is concentrated but note that the rebound can't be disentangled from the Chrysler and GM bailouts.

A mighty expensive blip.

Unfortunately, we have to pay for it.