Saturday, August 15, 2009

Barack Obama and the Hummingbird Feeder of Doom

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It is a rare and gifted writer who can craft a headline, so concise and yet so complete that you instantly grasp the entire scope of the article you are about to read. And so it is here, where the subject is, obviously, Cash for Clunkers!

Years and years ago, before the Earth was fully cooled, it was thought that if you put your hummingbird feeder out too late in the year, you risked enticing the diminutive birds with the prospect of free, colored sugar water, and they would resist the urge to fly South for the winter until it was too late. Scores of tiny dead kitty hors d'overs would be sticking out of the snow, flash frozen and strewn about the countryside, like a feline all-you-can-eat buffet!

Today, we have it on the authority of the Audubon Society, that birds have more sense than Democrats and are perfectly capable of taking a last minute snack before taking off for the long migration South.

So what do the unintended consequences of leaving your hummingbird feeder out too long have in common with government’s own hand out of sugar water to the unsuspecting?

Every time I’ve set myself down to list the unintended consequences of this seemingly innocuous government program, it seems a new one pops up every week. I’m up to an even dozen now, and I may have forgotten some since I started! To see how badly the government has bungled the program and how it portends that we never let these people get their hands on our health care, consider the following:

* The cash for clunkers program has marginally increased the cost of a new car, with more dollars chasing the same amount of vehicles. While this may be good for car dealers, it is bad for the consumer.

* The program favors the haves over the have nots. One has to have enough money to finance or purchase a new car outright in order to take advantage of the program. The program does not bode well for the un or underemployed.

* Cash for clunkers decreases the number of serviceable used cars. This will cause the price of those which remain to increase, further affecting the ability of the poorer among us to purchase a car.

* Cash for clunkers encourages people to go into debt, trading an asset for an obligation.

* Cash for clunkers reduces the number and quality of used cars of charities which rely on donations of used cars .

* Fewer serviceable used cars could adversely affect numerous local, small car dealers who deal exclusively in used cars, perhaps driving some out of business.

* By focusing the demand for cars into a shorter timeframe, Cash for clunkers will make intelligent planning more difficult. Do dealers and manufacturers gear up for continued demand and risk being caught with too much inventory? Or do they anticipate a slow down that may not materialize and not have enough inventory to meet demand?

* A program the government expected to last three months used up all its resources in five days.

* Some car dealers have extended credit based on government promises that have as yet to be fulfilled.

* Plus, some consumers traded in “clunkers” which were destroyed immediately (as required by the government), only to discover that their cars did not qualify for the program. I believe this short sighted element of the program has been modified, but only after a loss of wealth sustained by consumers.

* Ostensibly sold as a “Green” initiative, the program as implemented only required a 2 MPG better gas mileage than the trade-in.

* Not to mention the possibility of gaming the system:

And so I asked the question on the minds of millions of my fellow concerned citizens: How can I get my snout into this trough? Easy: I buy a small car qualifying for the $4,500, and keep it for a few months until the cash-for-clunkers boondoggle has run its course. At that point, the supply of used cars will have shrunk and their prices driven up; I will sell the almost-new small car for what I paid for it ($12,629 last Saturday) or more, at worst having driven it for free, and then buy the truck I covet. -Benjamin Zycher

As has been repeatedly pointed out, the idea of handing a sizable portion of the nation’s economy over to the guys who can’t even run a used car program is mind boggling. The idea that the life and death decisions involved in the nation’s health care might be a tad more complicated than used car trade-ins, with farther reaching repercussions is the reason the Cash for Clunkers has been relegated to the back burner and people have taken up their torches and pitchforks to storm the townhall meetings of their elected representatives.

And all their opposition has is AstroTurf!

Update: * And depriving the poorer folk among us of millions of engine parts that might help them to repair the cars they have. (I knew I'd forgotten at least one!)

Cross posted at Say Anything

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