‘Cash 4 Clunkers’ Nightmare on Elm Street

Regardless of how you feel personally about the “cash for clunkers” program, there is little doubt that some positive things came out of it.That doesn’t over-ride any gasps that have been heard about the unintended consequences of such a program, but you still have to acknowledge it got a lot of buyers excited about buying a car. Let’s stick with that for a minute.

It sill looks like consumers benefited, and the Government benefited by the “look what we’ve done to spark the economy” sound bits spewed all over the media, and finally, the dealerships got rid of a lot of autos sitting on their lots.

The problem is that they seem to be the ones floating the Federal Government, while they try to figure out how to make the payment processing work. That’s funny! From what I’m seeing, most dealerships are going on a wish and a prayer about getting paid.

I’m talking some major cash per dealership that is hung up in government regulations of 150 pages and some 14 different forms that need to be completed. Does that sound like efficiency to you? I think it’s totally blind faith at this point that the dealerships are going to get the money that is owed to them. Citi call centers have been awarded outsourced work, and the National Transportation and Highway and FAA employees have been brought in to process paperwork, in addition to part-time employees having been hired.

It kinda sounds like a cluster — I mean ‘Clunker’ to me. They are all working on trying to input stuff and they can’t get in because there is soooo much of it and the documentation to process just one sale with a qualified rebate takes hours to complete. The computers are overwhelmed. It’s a great program for the manufacturers, a great program for the consumers. For dealers, it’s been an administrative nightmare.

Think about this for a minute – The Obama administration and its allies in Congress propose to overhaul (and potentially run) health care for more than 300 million Americans?

I think we can say cash-for-clunkers doesn’t inspire much confidence in Washington’s bureaucratic acumen. Or its speed! Or its feel for a functioning market, the demands and expectations – – OK I’ll stop.

Will the dealers get paid? Yes, because failure to do so would be a PR disaster of epic proportions for the democrats and the administration. Will the program prove to be the jumpstart languishing auto sales need? Debatable, but probably not, though depleted inventories already are forcing increased production schedules across the industry. Those announcements were made about a week ago.

The more important question, it seems to me, is what the obvious administrative failures of cash for clunkers say about the federal government’s capability to manage programs more typically run by the private sector. And, secondly, why is there a clamor for more of the same? What is it about this poorly run program that the American people or even congress wants more of? Tell me, what am I missing? Why did the public not see or hear about the issues in the media? Clearly journalism has seen better days and major networks appear to be agencies for the Obama administration.

Sad day for the USA.

Auto dealers are in business to make money selling cars and trucks, not to serve as conduits for federal transfer payments. If nothing else, cash for clunkers proved Americans still love good deals — and that their government cannot process them.