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Who else got ‘Cash for Clunkers’ besides me?

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 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.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 08/04/2009 - 03:57 pm.

    We did C4C as well.

    Our offering was my late father-in-law’s 1990 Ford F250 with roughly 375,000 miles on it. While the rebuilt engine only had about 40,000 miles on it (they literally finished rebuilding the engine the day he suddenly passed in 2002), the body had seen better days.

    Like DB, we brought in the title, proof of 12 months of insurance and current registration information. We knew the final regs had to be issued by the 24th and we put earnest money down to hold our new car. And, like DB, we also raided the savings and plunked down $4 for each dollar of C4C. There was a lot of foot traffic in the showroom and a lot of deals were being done.

    My bride literally drove our new car off the showroom floor and out the door on the 27th. Now I don’t know where the hell she is. (j/k Dear!)

  2. Submitted by John Olson on 08/04/2009 - 04:01 pm.

    Oh, I forgot..the new vehicle in the house is a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel w/6-speed manual transmission.


  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 08/04/2009 - 04:02 pm.

    You should have noted WHY Gretchen Carlson has such a bee in her bonnet on this issue. Her parents are in the auto business (Main Motors, Anoka).

    “Carlson, a co-host on the Fox News Channel’s morning show “Fox & Friends,” appeared on Glenn Beck’s June 9 program and questioned the logic behind the decision reached by the government and General Motors (GM) to close down a dealership that has been in her family for 90 years.”

    Gretchen’s brothers are also in the biz. They own a Toyota dealership just down the street.

  4. Submitted by David Brauer on 08/04/2009 - 04:18 pm.

    Hey John – then it must be you and me then!

    Bob – sorry I didn’t know that data point. Who reported the Main Motors link?

  5. Submitted by Ben Welter on 08/04/2009 - 05:56 pm.

    My prep was similar to yours:

    I pored over the available documentation in early July. Two weeks ago, I visited a Honda dealership and put a deposit on a car. I reviewed the official rules on the day they were posted.

    On July 29, I brought in the necessary paperwork (along with a 7-year-old minivan), wrote a check, filled out a dozen or so forms — some required by the government, some by Walser — and picked up my car.

    As of today, Walser is still waiting for the rebate approval. And I’m crossing my fingers: One of the forms I signed requires me to pay Walser the $3500 if the government doesn’t cough it up. Or I can return the car, along with a check to cover mileage. Either way, I wouldn’t get my minivan back.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/04/2009 - 08:19 pm.

    Atta boy, Dave. Buying Japanese cars with borrowed Chinese money…Detroit is jumping for joy.

    Who says liberals are feckless conservators of the taxpayers money?

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/04/2009 - 09:55 pm.

    Haven’t you left for Sturgis yet? I would have expected you to be at the Pit Stop bike wash by now….

    Word has it that most domestic “Japanese” cars are now manufactured in the USA. I will hazard a guess that Americans staff these plants. I’ll go one further. I bet that Americans built these very same plants. You can almost smell the apple pie….(Macintosh or Honey Crisp?)

    Truth be told I’ll bet that you know something about the automation and or robotics that these plants use to produce these American made vehicles.

    Threw you a softball here Swiftee… hint southern states, unions, wages, taxes…..

  8. Submitted by Alex Lester on 08/04/2009 - 10:15 pm.

    You’ll be happy to hear, Thomas Swift, that beginning next year, Prius will be assembled in Mississippi, USA.
    It might help if you look at the c4c program as a component in a trickle up philosophy where all economic classes benefit. The opposite wasn’t working for me and has created a nation of peons. I think we’ll try this for a while.

  9. Submitted by David Brauer on 08/05/2009 - 02:04 am.

    To be fair to Tom, the Prius is one of the few remaining pieces of Japanese steel to be assembled in Japan.

    That said, the local fellas at Burnsville Toyota seems pretty happy to make the sale, and I’m sure the Pawlenty administration was happy to get my $1,500 in state sales taxes and tab fees enabled by President Obama.

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/05/2009 - 06:31 am.

    Say there Swiftee,

    Here is an interesting fact,
    for you and other motor scooter (Harley Davidson) enthusiasts.

    “Harley’s are designed and made in America.”
    OH SNAP and perhaps a “Rut Roh” as well.

    Yes, there are some foreign parts involved in the manufacture of this “iconic” American brand. The suspension and some electronics have been Japanese since the early 70’s. Harley has 12 foreign parts, not including the brakes which are Italian.

    Unless you are changing and adding “American” after market electronics, suspension and brakes to your scooter Swiftee. It would appear that you are not walking the talk…..

    Do also think that you will linking the general public to your marginally obscure blog anytime in the near future?

    It would be an opportunity for you to represent and let your wild side be seen in an unfiltered way.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2009 - 08:54 am.

    Alex Lester informed: “I think we’ll try this for a while.”

    Sure “we” will….for just as long as the Chinese are willing to play ball.

    You enjoy those Prius’s boys.

  12. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/05/2009 - 09:18 am.

    I too know a couple in Duluth who turned in their SUV for a Prius and they too did their homework carefully and sailed through with flying colors, to use a trite analogy. Congratulations.

    But speaking of ‘flying colors’, how many colors does the Prius come in? Since every new car looks alike nowadays – all look the same if you put a bag over the hood – how do you find it in a mall parking lot? Why not decorate your antenna with a plastic orange, or maybe a lemon and you can spot it easier…otherwise the security police may catch you jimmying the lock on sonebody else’s

    We once owned an olive green 35 Pierce Arrow; a rare beauty indeed. Bought it from a classic car showroom in St Paul. Actually used one tank of gas on a’straight eight’ driving from Mpls to Grand Marais…of course what was the size of the gas tank;there’s the rub. And little brother learned to drive at fifteen sailing across the Franklin Bridge at high noon traffic hour; nary a scratch or a fender bender. But then how do you dent a Pierce ‘with nerves’, body of steel?

    Will there ever be a Prius, classic model, down the road aways? No limited editions that’s for sure, if they should last that long.

    At least search for a rarer find out in somebody’s barn out in the boonies somewhereS? Drive for the joy of it; only on Sunday.

    The car as a necessary icon of our existance needs to be remembered in all its glory days.

    However, this is the time when the bicycle is king of the road. I see business men driving to work more often now, on their daughter’s pink and blue girl’s bike; brief snapped down behind and suit coat over the handle bars. Maybe they can afford to get a bike of their own someday soon…

  13. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2009 - 09:50 am.

    I’m not ready to trade my Eldo’ in for a roller-skate just yet, so I’m hoping MinnPost will alert us when the Kash for Kitchens (K4K) program starts.

    That trusty old toaster just ain’t what it used to be, and God knows we’d love to have an ice maker in our new refridgerator.

    Then, as my friend Mitch Berg suggests, we could move on to Moolah for Mowers….Greenbacks for Gutters….Ching for Couches….Scratch for Satellite Dishes.

    Hell, if the Chinese treasury holds up we could all be living in gated communities by this time next year!

    Gosh; ain’t being a liberal *great*?

  14. Submitted by Alex Lester on 08/05/2009 - 01:24 pm.

    Mr. Swift seems to have forgotten Buschco’s $100k tax deduction for the purchase of SUV’s and Hummers while phasing out the $2k deduction for hybrids.

    “…a business owner purchasing a Hummer H1, with a sticker price of $106,185, would be able to deduct $60,722 in the first year under the revised rules: a $25,000 equipment deduction, $24,356 in bonus depreciation, and $11,366 in regular depreciation.”

    Hope you were able to take advantage, Thomas.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2009 - 02:19 pm.

    The “Reality based community”; a wonderful place where everyone is happy; a place where $60,722 = $100k; a place where tax deductions = money borrowed from China; a place where Hummer H1’s are imported from Japan…a place where all of the drinking fountains dispense ice-cold koolaid.

    I’m a Cadillac man, Alex, but thanks for caring.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2009 - 02:25 pm.

    BTW, Alex.

    Is “Buschco” a shot at the makers of Budweiser, or have you already forgotten who last year’s Two Minutes’ Hate was directed towards?

  17. Submitted by Amira Holden on 08/05/2009 - 09:42 pm.

    My husband and I traded in our mid-’90s full-size Chevy pickup truck for a Nissan Versa under the Cash for Clunkers program.

    My husband was well prepared to get rid of our gas guzzler and had gone on a some test drives a few weeks before the fed program started. We went out to Walser Nissan in Burnsville a week before the program started and I got to drive a Versa, and we discovered the kids do in fact fit in the back seat.

    We filled out some papers to hold a car and were hoping to get our financing squared away. We thought we might get our car on Thurs. July 23 or Fri. July 24.

    The dealer called us Sat. July 25 to say the paperwork was ready and come on in, which we did. We left our junker and drove off in our new car.

    It seemed easy and with some preparation and all the necessary papers, it’s a great deal. I’m very happy we replaced our junker pickup with a new, fuel-efficient car.

  18. Submitted by none none on 08/06/2009 - 10:49 am.

    I think they created an effective stimulus plan with this.

    Hindsight is 20/20 but I would have tweaked this to account for foreign car purchases. For me, regardless whether a car is manufactured in this country or not, revenues go to a foreign company/government.

    I would have set up the plan differently:

    $4,500 for a car from the big 3(or whatever amount they come up with).
    $2,500 for any other make.

    Would this have persuaded me from the foreign car I prefer? No, but it probably would have persuaded some.

  19. Submitted by Steve Rose on 09/04/2009 - 10:38 am.

    I am happy that the C4C program has come to a close. I was tiring of that sucking sound that accompanies rising debt. On the 21st of August, The Obama administration raised it’s 10 year deficit projection from $7 trillion to $9 trillion. No surprise; disappointment, but no surprise.

    For those of us who don’t purchase new cars, this blog provided us a voyeuristic view into what that might be like. Though not enjoying the benefits of a new car, those of us on the outside still get to pay for a portion of each new car dealt out by the program. I think it would be fitting for the federal government to send each of us outsiders a cardboard pine tree air freshener, so that we can get a sniff of that new car smell.

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