There’s a time in everyone’s life when things pile up and up and up until one more piece added to the load drives you to the floor. Mine came this morning!

Most people, especially seniors like me, worked hard, raised kids, paid bills, sacrificed for necessary things and expected little in return. Most saved for what they wanted and paid for what they bought. The American way!

In the last year, these same people have been collectively hit with hundreds of billions of dollars in new responsibility — responsibility we didn’t want and never saw coming. We’ve bailed out banks, stock brokers, investment houses, car makers, credit and insurance companies, and more than a few greedy #%*&?@’s that got us here.

Now the last straw. The pile driver. The “clunker” bill.

On an almost straight party line vote, the U.S. House has approved “cash for clunkers” legislation which now goes to the Senate. My fondest hope is there it will be driven into a hole so deep no one will even remember it.

For the sake of those related to the auto business, let me explain. Over my lifetime, I’ve bought and sold more cars as an individual than some small dealerships. I’m a car nut, paying more for cars than for raising a family. Or alimony. Anything new … anything bright and shiny … anything with the latest accessories … I had to have it. Car payments sometimes exceeded half my income. I have been one of your main sources of support!

Barb and I still seem to each get a new car regularly. While we don’t make payments any more, we certainly support the auto industry. Directly. Now, our elected “representatives” are saying to me, “Silly you. If you had not spent all that money and just driven that last car for a couple more years, we would have given you up to $4,500 to get rid of it and buy something new and flashy.”

You get $3,500 if your new vehicle gets four miles per gallon more than your old one. Four! You get $4,500 if it gets 10 mpg. Ten! I’ve got friends that can tinker with their current car and beat those numbers.

In typical government fashion, something started as a half-baked, crackpot idea … use tax dollars to get rid of inefficient private vehicles … has morphed into another more half-baked, crackpot “save the auto makers” scheme. With tax dollars.

I wish the auto industry all the best top to bottom. A quick recovery. New, more efficient models. A hot market. Buyers lined up at the doors. Cars flowing like water off the lots. Record profits. I’ll even help. Remember capitalism?

BUT … giving a neighbor several thousand dollars to trade a vehicle he’s still making payments on … giving some guy who drives a truck or SUV getting less than 18 miles to the gallon thousands to get rid of what he had to have in 2005 … bailing out someone who’s upside down in a pickup he shouldn’t have bought in the first place … we can’t afford it!

And one other thing: the program lasts one year or until the money set aside is gone. Just imagine what will happen to car/truck values for those that don’t or can’t jump on the band wagon. Their vehicles will become valueless, mobile scrap heaps.

To some, this sounds like one whale of an idea. To me, it sounds like there’s a quick fix and found money for a few with a hook that will come back to stick us all in the end. And I mean “the end.”

Years ago, when Chrysler got into its first mess, government loaned millions to keep it afloat. We even stacked the deck against other car makers by buying only Chrysler vehicles for the massive taxpayer-owned vehicle fleet for a year or so. We got our money back. That time.

Now, GM alone has received $19.4 billion with another $30 billion promised. Chrysler billions more. Now, they want to add $4 billion to subsidize people who thought they were prudent keeping their cars/trucks for several years. Whatever happened to rewarding careful spending and living within your means? Why are the people who did that … the American way … being penalized and taxed for their lifetime of efforts?

Fed by an unreasonable craving for their products, I’ll continue to support the car companies with my dollars. But that is a choice I make, not one forced on me by a government hellbent on having a solution to everything by throwing our tax dollars at it.

The load is getting too big to carry. That’s my view from here on the floor.


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