Cash for Clunkers…just my thoughts

On the surface the Cash for Clunkers program seemed like a great idea. The government offers $3500-4500 to folks who turn in their old inefficient cars, they use that cash to help fund a new efficient car…lets see, new car sales soar and we get shitty old cars off the road. Wonderful. Except that the program was so successful there seems to be an issue of the program being suspended since all the cash is gone or close to it.

There is also an issue around what qualifies, see the Spousal Unit and I have a clunker, its an 11 year old Nissan Sentra but when I checked the other day, it seems we get better mileage than what is allowed so despite being old, it most likely doesn’t meet the requirement of being a clunker, at least the way I am reading this program.

Now I don’t mean to be Miss Grumpy pants, but all week as I heard about how wonderful this program is, I couldn’t help  thinking that for folks who are truly driving a dangerous hunk of shit, this program probably would not benefit them. Last time I looked, a brand new car is not cheap, maybe I am slow but I haven’t seen any 2009 cars for less then 12K. So say you get the maximum rebate of $4500, with a 12K car you still need $7500 either in cash or to be financed. Most folks who are living hand to mouth driving a clunker tend to be folks who either lack good credit (at least enough credit to get financed by a mainstream bank or dealer) or if they have good credit may lack enough income or even proof of income to satisfy the requirements to buy a new car.

I mean lets face it America is a car culture and unless you are like my husband who cares nothing about cars and wouldn’t spend money on decent car when he had the cash, most folks who are driving a hunk of shit are doing so for a reason. Instead cash for clunkers is one of those feel good programs that the few remaining middle class folks in America can participate in but that single Mama working 2-3 jobs driving a 95 Geo Metro can’t participate in….I’m sorry but Cash for Clunkers seems like a bad idea.  Then again maybe I am just cranky that my clunker is too damn efficient!

Cash for Clunkers…now all we need is some money

So I reading the local paper this morning and ran across this gem. On the surface it seems like a great idea, get folks to get rid of their old gas guzzling cars by offering an incentive of a few thousand dollars towards the purchase of a new, more efficient ride. However as I drank more coffee and thought about it, it struck me as a rather silly idea at least in these present economic times.

I mean have you priced a new car? I have and they are not cheap, shit you would be hard pressed to find a new efficient ride for under twenty thousand and with the credit markets resembling the state of the northeastern US this morning aka frozen, deep freeze….How many folks do you think are really gonna jump at this?

Instead of encouraging folks to buy newer more efficient cars maybe folks should be guided towards trying to live lives that are less car dependent in general. In my area folks own lots of cars, my next door neighbors have 3 cars for 2 adults, same with my neighbors across the street. Only one other family is a one car family like ours, funny thing is we live in the center of town so its possible to live here and do all your major life activities like shopping and banking without a car. It was the single most selling point when we chose this house instead of the gorgeous one in the country on 2 acres.

Look, Americans are wedded to their cars yet we need to change that. We need to create a better infrastructure by spending money on public transportation, take care of the rails which its my understanding have seen an increase in ridership this past year.  Yet even more folks might consider rail travel if it was more efficient. Right now for me to take the train to New York takes longer than driving there because to take the train involves switching not only trains in Boston but 2 train stations…um, that is not a way to encourage folks to travel by public transit.

Anyway while I think its nice that Congress wants to encourage folks to buy better cars, problem is this once again shows how disconnected the powers to be are with the average joes. Sort of like Bush’s stimulus that was supposed to stimulate the economy last year, folks didn’t run out to shop, they took that cash to pay down bills or else held onto it for the rainy day fund.

What we really need are some average joes making the laws who understand what its like to not have money, maybe then we’d get some ideas that reflect reality.  After all when you have a cushy 6 figure salary and excellent health insurance, its easy to forget the little man and woman.