A few months ago, I began my column claiming that I don’t really like to get “political,” and then proceeded by jumping all over the Big Three American auto manufacturers, and big businesses in general, for being shortsighted. At the time, I would call out the American public for its actions only on occasion. This month, that changes.
Now I’m forced to say (in my best John Belushi voice), “But nooooo.” This topic had to come up, and now I have no choice but to direct my political incorrectness toward those who participated in the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and used the $3,500-to-$4,500 of our tax money to buy a non-American vehicle.
The program was officially called CARS – Car Allowance Rebate System – although “Cash for Clunkers” become its more popular nickname. While we can debate the merits of the program, one thing is certain: it was intended to bolster the <American> automakers. The U.S government was to accomplish this by taking our tax dollars and providing an “incentive” to those who had old, gas-guzzling pigs and wanted to trade them in for new, fuel-efficient vehicles. The problem that put the Big Three in this mess to begin with, however, is that they mostly only built gas-guzzling pigs. So when it came down to actually buying a fuel-efficient vehicle, there were few palatable, American choices.
Our government just couldn’t bring themselves to flat out admit, “We – and by that we mean you the taxpayer – are again going to help the Big Three to become solvent. We are going to achieve this my handing out $4,500 for something that isn’t worth $1,500, as long as you buy a new, <American> vehicle.” They didn’t say that. They wanted to make everyone happy. The realpolitik aspect of this situation took over, which wouldn’t have happened if Detroit was the only one making money. I guess the U.S. government <assumed> that folks would be good Americans and put the interest of our country, and its business infrastructure, ahead of their own petty interests. But as usual, the government was wrong.
The biggest winner in the CASH program was Toyota, with 19.2 percent of the total sales, followed by GM with 17.7 percent and Ford with 14.4 percent. Chrysler, trailing far behind everyone else as usual, came in at a distant fourth with only 6.6 percent of the overall sales. The Toyota Corolla was the highest-selling car in the program, which means that we, the taxpayers, are now paying to bolster the <Japanese> auto industry. Yes, I know that some of these cars are made in U.S. plants, and that it had a positive effect for some American workers. In the end, though, the profits went back to Japan.
As I said before, I don’t want to appear an isolationist. The Big Three dug their own hole, but when the population of the United States has the chance to do something for the country as a whole, and they choose not to, it just infuriates me.
OK, next month I promise, no politics. I’ll write something warm and fuzzy, entertaining, non-controversial and that won’t raise the blood pressure – yours or mine.
I’ll just have to avoid watching the evening news before I sit down to write it.