Reports say General Motors plans to temporarily close most of its American factories for up to nine weeks this summer as the automaker struggles to overcome slow sales and financial troubles. In a conference call with reporters this morning,

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin referred to the move as a "summer vacation" for G-M workers but quickly changed his tone. "I just think that this illustrates the dire straights our automobile manufacturing industry is in this country," Harkin says. "I still believe one of the best things we can do is to provide a demand pull. We’ve got all these cars sitting out there but no one’s buying them."

Harkin, a Democrat, says he’d support a program in which low-income Americans were given the money to buy new vehicles. He calls it Cash for Clunkers and suggests it would be a way to get gas-guzzling, air-polluting old vehicles off the roads.

"Low-income Americans mostly are the ones who are driving those cars," Harkin says. "They can’t afford to buy a new car. They can’t afford to get the credit. Even if they could come up with a small down payment, they can’t get the credit to buy a new car. And then you provide the demand pull. You get a couple million new cars off the inventory list. This might stimulate G-M to start and run its plants more this summer."

He says a similar program was successful in Germany.