So I was supposed to return to work yesterday, but took an extra day wrapping up my purchase of a 2010 Prius through the Cash-for-Clunkers program.
That’s right; dropped off my documents a week ago Friday, the voucher was approved while on I was on vacation, and I drove the car off Burnsville Toyota’s lot Monday.
But according to Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson, I’m only one of two in the entire state to be approved by the federal government!
Via Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller, here’s Carlson on Tuesday’s “Fox and Friends”:
As Steller notes, Carlson confused a 2 percent consummation rate with two cars total. Hey, she was a violin virtuoso when she won Miss America, not a math whiz!
The government says most folks now in the queue will wind up like me … but I won’t deny C4C’s spanking machine factor.
Chance favors the prepared, and it helps that I’m an obsessive type who saves documents and had cars.gov fully checked out by mid-July. The feds didn’t release the rules until Friday, July 24; that morning, I showed up with my clunker’s title, and — to prove I had owned and insured my ’93 Ford Explorer for the previous 12 months — two years of vehicle registration info and two years of insurance policies.
“I doubt we’re going to see anyone with documentation like this,” said the finance guy, who was already looking a bit overwhelmed by the less-prepared.
I left a check, my trade, and my new car all sitting in Burnsville, and took off for Oregon.
Of course, the feds’ computer was overwhelmed (I honestly think this had something to do with the relatively short 30-day rule-making period mandated by Congress), and the dealer couldn’t register until the following Tuesday. It took another day to get the good news about my voucher, but I could’ve completed the deal Wednesday had I been in town.
Still, I was the dealer’s first approval out of 150 — and 10 days after the program went live, I was the first to drive a car off the lot.
There were a few honest snafus along the way — when we hurriedly mocked up the deal before my trip, I was charged for sales tax on the $4,500 voucher; the feds, state and Minnesota Auto Dealers Association later clarified that was wrong. That didn’t blow up the deal; the finance documents were easily re-drawn Monday morning.
There’s been a lot of kvetching on the dealer side about how labor-intensive this has been; I have sympathy watching and experiencing it, since I’ve probably put two or three eight-hour days into making my one transaction work. Still, maybe the auto guys will have a bit more sympathy for the welfare recipient whose EBT card doesn’t work.
Of course, sympathy is in short supply for cash-for-clunkers purchasers, too. We’re taking your money to buy our cars, though if it’s any consolation I’ve already given back $1,500 in sales taxes and tab fees.
Even though my switcheroo is one of the few that might actually make sense on environmental grounds, I’ve already been on the receiving end of more dirty looks than a Prius owner normally receives. I got a bitter email from someone I respect saying the money I took would’ve better spent improving mental health coverage. I didn’t reply, because I can’t really disagree (though I did wonder if folks getting a tax break for energy-efficient windows get similar abuse).
I’ve also heard from two conservative buddies noting archly that despite my usual tax-raising rhetoric, I was taking the nearest equivalent to a tax cut. That’s true, too, but a couple of policy notes:
One reason the Obama administration didn’t cut taxes is that a lot would be saved. If you’re a Keynesian — and I am — you know that what’s needed at the moment is spending. Cash-for-Clunkers requires you to spend.
Because I had to fork over four dollars for every one my fellow taxpayers gave me, my wife and I disgorged savings we’d accumulated during the boom (when a lot of other folks were spending; we always wondered how folks could afford bigger houses and more expensive cars than we could on a very decent income). We weren’t in the car-buying market, so this was money we’d have otherwise sat on. I got the better end of the deal, but at least you got some private-sector stimulus.
Would the program be better if we handed out spending vouchers more equitably (only people who can afford new cars can get C4C funds) and extended it to all industries? Yup.
Would it be better if we had some societal agreement to pay this all back when times turn fat — the un-fun side of Keynesianism? Yup again, and President Obama is reaping the whirlwind of failing to level with folks about the extent of tax hikes (not to mention spending cuts).
So anyway, that’s the testimony of a societal pariah. Returning to my original theme: any other successful (or unsuccessful) C4C purchasers out there? If so, please relay your experience in the comments.