I DON'T know how it was where you live, but here the end of the Cash for Clunkers, or CARS program (never so referred to, and this by the people who were still calling it Reagan's "Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars" long after even Republicans had given up) was a cause for celebration by overextended, stressed-out teevee workers who'd been forced to drive from lot to lot to do backups, often the very same day they'd had to eat a corndog at the Fair.
I mean, that's assuming they're winding down; I'm afraid to look at this point. Channel 8--for much of the terrifying three previous weeks I've had the remote (though I knew better than to tune in anything other than local news), because with the start of the school year my Poor Wife has been trying to keep up with unreasonable, facelessly-bureaucratic government paperwork requirements which she must complete before she gets paid despite the fact that the servers crash frequently and things could be run better, so we've stuck with one channel, and for my money 8 offers the best local mix of stumbling teleprompter phonetics, clueless personnel decisions, and enforced pseudo-middle-class moral perspective--Channel 8, I say, may not be able to let go, like those anti-aircraft gunners still firing at the one-winged conflagration that used to be a Kamikaze as it spirals the last eighty feet into the Pacific.
At some point the mask slipped. At some point, right around the time that the original program ran out of money faster than expected someone at 8 forgot they were supposed to re-write the transcripts of that FOX NEWS morning show before they went to air, and the thing became a long exposé of Boy The Gubment Can't Get Anything Right, the likes of which I haven't really seen since Jimmy Carter gave away Our Canal. It's Run Out of Money! Already! Can You Believe It! Dealers Might Not Get Paid! Then the Congress bankrolled the thing for another $2 billion worth of wild popularity, but the script was set. Paperwork! Deadlines! Dealers Might Not Get Paid! The whole thing was treated as if it reeked of Scandal, as if $3 billion was some unimaginably and unprecedentedly enormous sum which had to be connected to some bureaucratic graft or other, rather than what it was, which is about 50% of what Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient L. Paul Bremmer just plain lost, in greenbacks, in just one of several suitcases he misplaced in Iraq.
The Dealer meme, especially, took root; the cynical among you may not require me to point out that Auto Sales Specialists--one of the most trusted and respected professions in the country--buy actual advertising time on local teevee, while owners of ten-year-old oil burners generally do not. They're not getting their money expeditiously! was a feature of every story for three weeks straight (compare, I guess, dealing with a bank, which, the minute you close a deal, puts someone in a cab with a manila envelope stuffed with Cs and instructions to run every light between here and there). A couple days back one of the guys the station had running between car lot backdrops sat down to interview, or "interview", the President and Lord High Potentate of the Indiana Auto Dealers, Fly-by-Night Driveway Resealers, and Small Traveling Carnival Operators Association, who did nothing but complain about the program for the alloted time, which was, by my watch, Too Long By Several Minutes, including his noting that dealerships had had to pay people to enter the paperwork from 2-4 AM because that was the only time the servers weren't busy. Oh my God, what have we become? Big Typing has muscled its way into the Totally Free Largesse For Automobile Dealership Owners With No Effort Required On Their Part Program!
My favorite, though, was yesterday's "interview" with the grifter from up the street here, the guy my Poor Wife takes her vehicle to for service, the one who, from the day she first took it in (had to buy it across town, because his "deal" was no deal at all) has been sending her monthly postage-subsidized mailers, regularly telling her how desperately they need Used Vehicles Just Like Hers, so desperately, in fact, that they're willing to pay something like Book Value for it, provided she reciprocate by buying a new vehicle from them, plus letting them choose the Book. And this guy says, with a straight face that would have been really impressive if he were something other than a car dealer, that the "real success" of the program has been that it got a lot of inefficient, unsafe cars off the road. And to a lesser extent, he made a shitpot full of money without having to adjust for the present economic climate. But mostly those polluting clunkers are off the road, is the first thought of the guy who has personally defoliated 1/4 acre of Indiana protected wilderness just to send postcards to my wife with the intention of determining if she had enough intelligence to insult.
It's good to see the old, facile, Everything Government Does Sucks routine returning to the Individually-Wrapped Zeitgeist Slices industry. It's an unexpected benefit. I must say I'd missed it during the bunting-draped Bush years and the cheerleading for the unconscionable waste of blood and treasure at the service of utter stupidity. But I'm glad they saved it up for something really important.