Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Clink'd

Several weeks back I wrote a couple of blog posts, the first 'Clink, Clank, Clunk' discussed pending legislation which would provide YOU a piece of TARP money for your very own! (APPLAUSE)

The second provided a DETAILED ANALYSIS (with actual facts, which I looked up! And, yes, I admit, a few I MADE up) of the plan and was entitled, simply enough, 'Clunk.'. (YET EVEN MORE APPLAUSE)

After the last post I left it alone because when it comes to giving people FREE stuff (and Congress is involved in this a LOT); well, once those wheels start turning it's hard to stop them. This being said, the bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama.

The interesting about the bill was HOW it was actually passed... For the purposes of accuracy I now quote the nice folks at The Washington Post:

"Congressional leaders attached the legislation to a $106 billion spending bill to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spending bill passed by a 91 to 5 vote but not before some Republican lawmakers unsuccessfully sought to strip the measure from the bill."

"Let's not add a billion dollars of unnecessary debt," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) during the Senate floor debate.

Dealers, unions, trade groups and automakers have been lobbying for months for the legislation in hopes that it would stop the streak of dismal U.S. auto sales. "The simple fact is that we need to get Americans into car showrooms, and this is the bill that will do it," Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.

So the CARS Act was passed by burying it in a spending bill which provided funds to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan... How many members of Congress would stand up and say "I will NOT fund our troops overseas and in harms way, BUT we'll give 'em a discount to upgrade their Hummers!"? Expected life expectancy of the politician making this statement is roughly the same as that of the ever-popular Mayfly.

Details of the CARS act were released on Friday of last week. Car dealers' showrooms were busy with shoppers hoping to turn in their OLD vehicle and getting their personalized TARP bailout in the amount of 3,500 or 4,500 dollars towards the purchase of a new vehicle. Unfortunately for the dealers, the Government didn't release program specifics until 7am Friday morning and NONE of them had time to read it in time to answer car shoppers' questions on Friday.

Jumping ahead a couple of days, I have heard that several local car dealerships have anywhere from 12 - 20 new deals pending (each) since announcement of the program last Friday. Gee, that's GREAT! Right?

Yeah, you'd think...

But here's the rub: Apparently whoever set up the government CARS online submission service didn't PLAN for the volume of request which are coming in. The result is that local car dealers who are entering the multiple screens of required vehicle information, insurance information, license information to verify that the vehicle qualifies for the 'Rebate' then the system BURPS and the data is gone.

The dealer begins entering the data again, and again, and again, and again...You get the picture, right?

So here's a car dealer who Congress has put on the hook for at LEAST $3,500 not knowing if he'll ever get this vehicle input online to get HIS check from the government. This, of course, to reimburse him for the commitment that he's made to the car shopper (at the request of the FEDS). If he (or she) has delivered the vehicle and doesn't get the electronic submission in prior to the $1 Billion in Rebates being used up...

Well, suffice it to say that his (or her) auto shopper got one HECK of a deal because that dealer won't be receiving a penny of assistance from Uncle Sam. AND he no longer has a re-sellable vehicle because the trade has been scrapped (again, at the request of Uncle Sam).

Thanks Mr. Dealer, you ROCK!

For those of you who think it's SUPER GROOVY COOL that the government wants to get involved in your health care, allow me to submit to you the following:

1. The guidelines for the CARS program are 136 pages long (each 'competing' health care bill is over 1,000 pages in length (no one in Congress has admitted to reading all of them as yet))

2. The government didn't adequately prepare for a $1 Billion program (I'm sure they'll do a much better job for a $1 Trillion program -- sure, what's a couple more ZEROs?)

3. The CARS program (with 136 pages in guidelines) has created the need for THREE more government divisions under the NHTSA. (Again, these THREE divisions are to manage a Congress-sponsored 136-page set of regulations).

Excerpting from the documentation provided on the CARS site: "In order to implement this new program, NHTSA has had to quickly create a new organization. NHTSA has established the Office of the Car Allowance Rebate System within the Office of Enforcement. The new office will consist of three divisions.

The Transaction Oversight Division will work closely with the contractor NHTSA has retained to review incoming requests for payment from dealers to ensure that those requests are reviewed correctly and in a timely way.

The Data Analysis and Reporting Division will review data generated in connection with the program to help ensure the system’s efficiency and detect problems with the process or indications of potential compliance issues. That division will also produce reports on all aspects of the system.

The Compliance Division will work to detect and deter possible noncompliance related to the program and coordinate closely with NHTSA’s Office of Chief Counsel when possible violations are found. That division will also coordinate closely with the DOT’s Office of Inspector General on issues related to possible fraud in connection with the program."

4. So what does the government request that the dealer do with the vehicle he/she has collected from the consumer for $3,500? "Key to the program's long-term success will be the death mandated for the clunker: After its oil is drained and replaced with sodium silicate, the engine is run until it seizes. The vehicle must be crushed or shredded."

Okay, for purposes of conversation let's assume that your car dealer isn't trying to wrangle a $3,500 check from the government to cover the $3,500 he (or she) loaned the program. Sure, the car dealer's on his (her) own -- let them haggle with the government... You got your new Mercury Milan!

But let's assume instead that you're waiting to get an organ transplant...

Do you really want the doctor doing the haggling to get you your 'part'? Or you? And now go back and re-read 'Number 4' above. What if they were talking about Y-O-U instead of your car? Personally, I don't feel too good about being 'crushed or shredded'.

Oh wait, here's an idea, how about we let the government do what they're best at -- spending our money and creating 'guidelines' for OTHER new programs (besides health care)? Maybe doctors and hospitals might possibly have a better handle on which health care options patients might actually need?

Naaaaaaaah! I trust Congress. Don't you?

07/29/09 Update: For feedback on just how well things are going with this spiffy new government-sponsored program, please feel free to visit Edmunds.com! See how your fellow-citizens are faring! Meet interesting new people! Run screaming into the street!

My oh my...
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