Friday, August 21, 2009

Cash for Clunkers clunking aht ...

I noticed the Cash for Clunkers program is ending Monday, two months before it was supposed to. I would bet the automakers would prefer it went at least until the end of the month.

I did not watch the PBS News Hour last night (the rest of my family prefers anything else, including perhaps Cash Cab, which I do enjoy). Nor have I read any opinion pieces on it recently. So my perspective has not been guided (not to say co-opted) by pundits. As far as I can see car dealers probably largely brought about the end of this program. They were telling anyone who would listen that they had a very large number of unfiled claims, at least they were back when the government went back to the well and authorized more money for the program a few weeks ago. I suspect that, like how the stimulus has not actually spent that much money yet, the government has not done that many reimbursements yet. So in fact there is no way to know whether the demand for new cars this week is as high as it was last week. Of course, the whole situation is artificial; people may be buying cars they would not have bought for even two years because of the prices. Still even the modest gains in gas mileage will help the over all situation of the country. Plus the anticipation of lower demand may bring the price of oil down.

Still, it is hard to be too optimistic. Car companies may bring back idled workers for a few months to make cars ordered, replenish dealer inventory and so on, but I wonder if they will not soon be back on the street, and if a bunch of dealerships will not still be closed (as I believe they were scheduled to do). So it is hard to see this whole thing as much more than a blip in our current decline, either a brief up tick or even just a slower decline. Plus it is disheartening to see Americans so willing to take on even more debt even if in a good cause and for getting a bargain.

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