It’s not turning car companies into government agencies that bothers me so much as turning the government into a car company. And not a car manufacturer, you understand. I mean a car dealer. The kind with the big lot on the edge of town covered in balloons and promoted incessantly by radio commercials with catchy jingles.
This trend kicked off in March when the president announced new car warranties backed by the government. That was on top of an assortment of other incentives then in place to get folks to come on down and kick the tires, such as a temporary deduction for state sales taxes and tax credits (a. k. a. rebates) for hybrids.
The latest gimmick under consideration by our national dealership is a version of the old "we’ll pay you $1000 for any trade" scheme. Working its way through Congress is a cash-for-clunkers promotion. Turn in any drivable car with mileage at least 10 MPG worse than what you are buying to replace it and Crazy Uncle Sam will pay you $4500. Hurry hurry hurry. At these prices these deals just won’t last.
Obviously, this is a perfectly sensible use of taxpayer dollars. (Or, to be more precise, a perfectly sensible use for the dollars we are borrowing from the Chinese.) But this obsession with cars is getting out of control. We need to broaden these sorts of initiatives to cover more of our economy.
For example, our national wardrobe could use some work. Why not a scheme that pays a $5 credit for each article of clothing more than 10 years old that is replaced by something newer and more tasteful? For too long we have suffered by having to look at clothing on others that, frankly, didn’t look that great when it was new in the 1990s. It’s time for us all to move on.
And do you realize that there are still millions of Americans relying on videotapes for entertainment? Isn’t it past time that the government buy up those VCRs so that these poor folks can buy DVRs? And there are still households still watching standard definition TVs. I know it’s upsetting to think about, but those families do exist, and right here in America, not just in some impoverished Third-World nation. They need the government’s help too.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with the government assuming the role of car dealer. The car industry is an innocent victim of circumstance that needs our help. And the American consumer deserves a break in the form of the magic of new car smell. But the rest of the economy is also hurting, and I for one would really appreciate a bunch of new stuff.
Let’s step boldly into the future with a blanket subsidy for all consumer spending. Specifically, let me propose a tax credit of 10% on all credit card charges through the end of the year. Think of it as the ultimate cash-back promotion. I know critics will ask how the government could possibly afford this. Well, I have an answer: a national sales tax.