August 1st, 2009
07:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #194: Crash for clunkers? Say it ain't so

Reporter's Note: Despite my ponderings in an earlier missive (see Letter #190) I have yet to jump in on the Cash for Clunkers deal, and now it appears that I may be too late, or close to it. And since I am now not car shopping I can continue with my letter a day to President Obama.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/29/cash.clunkers.irpt/art.clunker.new.irpt.jpg caption="Julie Callahan traded in her 1990 Chevy C1500 pickup truck for a new PT Cruiser."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I don’t know whether to congratulate you or ask what you were thinking. Without a doubt your Cash for Clunkers program is wildly popular. Funny how that works, start handing out thousand dollars bills and suddenly everyone is your friend, eh?

On the other hand confusion about the program had auto dealerships looking like a Twister contest on the Titanic as they scrambled to fit in as many deals as possible ahead of what some feared would be the very early and untimely death of the program. As I write this, it still seems pretty uncertain what lies ahead. And I suspect that is both good and bad.

The good new is you launched a program that beneficiaries clearly liked. (Opponents, not so much; after all you’Re paying for all those great car deals with their money.) You can take a pat on the back from environmentalists for cutting carbon emissions from older vehicles that are now off of the road, and for making the nation’s personal car fleet at least a bit more fuel efficient. Polar bears of the world, rejoice!

The bad news? Well, I’ve already mentioned the frustration of tax hawks who feel like this is just a big giveaway program disguised as a stimulus/environmental/energy saving plan. But there is also this: The confusion over parts of this program, such as the EPA’s last minute changes to which cars qualified, and now this bank run over fears of a quick termination, raise the specter of problems with other programs. After all, your critics will certainly say, if this relatively small program which deals with a tiny part of the economy can create low-level chaos, how can we trust your predictions about how smoothly other much bigger, more complex programs will go, and what the public response will be…on say health care reform, for example?

Here’s my advice: Whatever you and your team decide to do about Cash for Clunkers is purely up to you, but make sure you do it decisively, and in a tidy fashion. Whether in politics, the home, or the workplace, if people feel like leaders do not carefully conceive and execute their plans…if they feel like ideas are being thrown together like a Kiwanis club pot luck…it makes them uneasy. And America is uneasy enough as it is.

On the road a bit this weekend in my clunker, which I suspect I will now have for a few more months, so use my cell if you want to call.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Wanda Ellis

    It is good to get the gas hogs off the road; move the back log of cars and trucks; and put more people to work to build up the inventory again.

    August 3, 2009 at 3:16 am |
  2. Bernadette

    well i cant wait for this cash for clunkers backfires.. for one thing who has the money to buy a new car anyways! once you take your clunker in and get a whopping trade in, and a few months down the way you find yourself out of a job and cant pay for the new car .. hmmm hope obama thought of that.. he should have just given us a stimulus check and let us have a nice dinner out.. and who out there could afford a new car before this cash for clunkers .. if they had a clunker i dont think they can afford a new car , but anyways i will be watching to see how it is played out.. its like a big chess game..

    August 3, 2009 at 1:47 am |
  3. donna

    How's this "Cash for Clunkers" being monitored. I fear it leaves room for fraud, and another bailout disaster.

    August 2, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  4. Jim

    Sorry but I'm Keeping my " Clunker" It is PAID for, costs me only $48 a year to register, Does not require Smog, Insurance is $300 a year.
    Plus if it breaks down I can work on it. I would not have a new car if it was given to me.
    1- Too much Computer crap in them
    2. requires a rocket scientist to work on & costs a fortune
    3. Insurance is higher than a jet propelled kangaroo.
    4. damn thing has to be smogged regularly costing me money I do not have.
    5. I paid $1.00 for my truck, Ain't NO WAY I'm gonna spend thousands of dollars on a piece of plastic

    August 2, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  5. Brennan

    Those with REAL clunkers are probably not able to afford to take advantage of this program. Since the "clunkers" are to be destroyed is the environment really being helped?? Since the "clunkers" are to be destroyed those with REAL clunkers can't even get a used vehicle able to help the environment. Doesn't this cut down on the numbers of "good" used vehicles – those with fewer emissions??? Brennan doesn't get it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  6. Judy Neal

    The "Crash" for Clunkers Program should be a good indicator of
    what will happen with a government run health care program.
    Where will the money come from for the health care program when they find they have underestimated the cost of it?
    Clearly this Clunkers program was not well thought out (consider
    the confusion with this program and decide if that is what you
    want when your health is at stake).
    Wake up America!!!

    August 2, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  7. ONEKA

    I took my SUV to the Ford of Ocala dealership in Florida for the cash for clunkers program on July 1, 2009. I explained honestly to them that I knew I had lapsed in my car insurance. I wasn't sure if it would qualify for the CFC Program. It did qualify for everything else. They assured me that they would get it approved. They got me into a 2009 Ford Focus which I just had to return today after having it for 1 month b/c, the dealership just checked my car insurance coverage and saw that I had a lapse of coverage. After they told me I was approved for everything, they took the car back today 7/31/09. I even spoke with the approving lender and got everything finalized and registered to my name. I’m a hard working single mother taking care of two children on my own. I’m trying my best to live within my means. I am hurt and distraught and simple so discouraged that someone would do this to me. This is why I’m trying to trade in my truck. I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT AFFORD IT ANYMORE. The engine is blowing white smoke. I just don’t know what to do?

    August 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Theresa

    I would like to comment on a different situation
    Why wasn't OUR President Obama not defended when the
    Russians refused to shake his hands.
    CNN did not even mentioned it.
    We are Americans and we are proud of our democracy
    We should take pride in our President and our country.
    What is our country going to do about that slap in the face of our President from the Russians

    August 1, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  9. Jan Casalena

    Please stop it with the Hollywood gossip-type stuff!!!
    I got hooked on AC60 during the presidential campaigns, and have respected and enjoyed the show, hardly missed a day and frequently watched the same show twice in a day.
    HOWEVER, lately, it has become too much like Entertainment Tonight or that level of rag journalism, especially since Michael Jackson's death. (a) Most of us really don't care that much, esp. after this much time and ENDless "reportage" about every sickening detail and (b) it's beneath the level of journalism I have watched you for.
    If I continue to turn on AC360 and find more crap about "the latest" on Michael Jackson, I'll stop watching. With the Health Reform talks, war in Afghanistan, and endless other more important topics, surely you can let the Jackson crap go to the bottom of the list !
    And the cutesy repartee between Erica and Anderson WAS cute for the first year or so. Not anymore.
    Please remember that most of us watch you for NEWS, JOURNALISM, not for People Magazine-type Hollywood gossip.
    I would like to think that this "entertainment news" shift you've made is temporary. If not, you will be losing serious news viewers like me.

    August 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Mary

    The Clunkers...
    I was wondering why all of the sudden money is available for the cars, and why we are thought to have the money to get the cars. Did not the recession, place anyone in the hard to live line? No jobs, or income when you barely have a roof over your head, like a pup tent or such, and trying to eek out a existence, and still money is wanted, with not thought to each persons circumstances?? Where is the reality in this?

    Health Care, what is up with the living will, is there a hidden agenda not disclosed to everyone? In addition, why bring it up; are the elderly to be outsourced? Why not focus on helping people without threat, and allow people to make their own minds up. Questions and answers are generalized.

    The Seniors are wise, educated people as well, this will not be a genocide regarding them as many believe will happen( allegedly) to adhere to the health care plan will it? Why is it, not everyone is included on the Living wills and such, that is causing hair -raising questions.

    August 1, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  11. Frank

    The government and Obama can't even operatethe cash for clunkers program, so how in hell can the operate a health insurance program? The government can't even operate Amtrack or the post offfice! No trillion dollar addition to the national debt for health insurance! Make Congress and Obama subject to the same provisions Congress is trying to cram down taxpayers throats! Dems want health care, let them pay for it themselves instead of reducing Medicare benefits and taxing employer provided health benefits to mployees! Tax Pelosi for flying Air Force planes to California and tax Obama for the sight seeing trips at taxpayer expense by his daughters and mother-in-law! These leaches have sucked the publiv tit too damn long!

    August 1, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  12. Craig

    Anderson Cooper Please; Enough with Jackson already. I will stop watching Larry King, and CNN. It seems the other cable networks stopped the jackson hype. Jackson's hype is media created, just like anna nicole smith. Someone who never did anything constructive with her life. Jackson was talented, but as a human being, he was deceptive, manipulative, and screwed anyone he could. At least Elvis was a great talent, and a great human being. The only one Elvis hurt was himself. Elvis was and is a real American hero/king. Cover that ; Neverland will never be the tourist attraction Graceland is, and smart people know why. Stop it already; Integrity counts in the long run...

    August 1, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  13. paul

    after the cash for clunkers is over, is anybody thinking that car sales will hit a new bottom for many years. one year of high profits for many years of near zero sales for at least a decade, and the car companies needing more money from the goverment.

    August 1, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  14. Sharon Penney-Morrison

    When can we have a TV "look into" White in America?

    August 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  15. Bernadette

    cash for clunkers. hmmm i wished i even had a clunker to drive. this is crazy.. we need to stop the complete stupidity of the government..
    also . i was viewing another subject... i learned that van jones has joined the white house as advisor to the green jobs.. well anderson you truely need to look at this... read is past , he is well known as a communist and black nationalist.. what the heck is going on.. check it out anderson.. obama is circling too many people as his czars..

    August 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  16. truthislove45

    CASH for Clunkers programs is what Obama is good at! He sets up smokes and mirrors too take your cash for clunker of programs. READ the over 1000 page bill at your staged, scripted poll tailored town hall meetimgs! Oh its all about you "celbrity in chief. Do I have a problem with Obama. Yes I can! I'm not into con artist who thinks he can smile and speak in vague terms about an over 1000 page bill and get away with it. Gods word speaks of such a man in terms of unjust balances (an abomination) God bless people! Trust God "truly" and you'll see the wicked plans of the gov! Jesus loves you!

    August 1, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  17. Heidi Berg

    I think it was a great idea ,Some times when you get an idea like this you should just jump in and go for it ,instread of waiting on congress to decide ..witch way to go ..witch way to go ..ten years later.

    August 1, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  18. Dozier Hunter

    I am wondering if anyone else picked up own the implied threat by the national police federation spokenman regarding President Obama's comments about the incidence of Prof. Gates and policeman Crowley.
    I quote "Al policemen across this country are offended."


    August 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  19. William Fong

    Dont understand why everyone is so ecstatic about the CARS program andwhyy they are rushing to pour more cash into the program. To me its a3500-4500 handout to 200,000self indelugent individuals who couldn't care less about the economy.. They bought these clunkers when they were pigging out, didn't care about the enviroment, economy. Things get a little tough and they want those people that were more economical than they to foot a handout.. Who do they think is going to pay for this handout? Maybe this will help the auto industry, probably not. They selling 250,000 more cars with with this program. But the industry expect to sell 6 million less cars this year. Instead of giving a handiut to a piggish few, why not have a general handout to anyone will to purchase a new car. This fairer to me. I live on a pension and Social Security, and was thinking about buying a new car to take advantage of the lowere prices..

    August 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  20. Len White

    I'm against the federal government spending on this program. While it will remove some gas guzzling cars from US streets and highways, it provides a form of public welfare to the automobile industry and a relatively small segment of the car driving public. It also contributes to an already ballooning national debit which most certainly will lead to significant inflation affecting all US citizens. It's also unlikely to result in significantly better fuel efficiency. Replacement cars only have to get 4 more miles per gallon than the gas guzzlers turned in to receive $3,500. This is exactly the kind of wasteful federal government program many citizens fear from liberals.

    August 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  21. Joan Michelson

    What % of cars coming in as "clunkers" are GM or Chrysler models (since rhey received taxpayer $$) vs. non-US, and what % of "fuel-efficient" cars being bought are the same. Do you know?

    August 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  22. Lori

    Thanks for the letter Tom.

    Vehicular emissions have been linked as a major contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming. Removing older less efficient cars from the road is a good thing. Older cars create more pollution and new cars conserve resources. This is a worthy cause and giving away hundred dolllar bills never hurt anyone's popularity.

    August 1, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  23. Ikaika

    What are ya worried about, Tom, the government has an endless source of cash.

    Well, it's beyond obvious that this gigantic sales tactic reeks of lobbyists. Well, nothing new there.

    From everything I've seen, and continue to see, there is no debt for our government, no "deficit", our descendants will not be burdened with paying anything back – per se, anyway. They will be paying out the bottom of their trousers, though – in taxes, but that would have happened regardless of any economic fiasco, or any economic anything. The parasites who run the world have our beloved government officials at the end of their puppet strings, and they will not allow us to go into total poverty, they will continue to give us the illusion that we are free,and we will continue to spend. It's a litle more complicated than that, but I'm sure you can use whatever "Handouts" the government offers without the fear that our kids and grandkids will be paying directly for that. And don't forget, it's our duty and responsibility to keep big business – in business – it's the new American way. Yes, our offspring will be paying, but they will no matter what does or does not happen in the finanical and social world.

    August 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  24. BettyAnn,Nacogdoches,TX

    Wow Tom I am impressed. You write so often and well! And here today on Saturday the 1st day of August you write about cash for clunkers.
    Man, you are driven!

    August 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  25. johanna

    I was thinking of trading in mine and last nite on news they said its about to be over! Youre right. They shouldve put an expiration date on it or let us know it was temporary. It causes distrust in the people. Obviously, they had not planned ahead before launching it either. Cause for concern? Maybe!

    August 1, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  26. Rose Arnedo

    Hi Mr. Cooper,

    I am currently living in Toronto.

    Is CNN aware that Corazon Aquino passed away? I see no news whatsoever in what I suppose is the CNN North American edition . Incredible.

    August 1, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  27. MarciaHecht

    The next step may be distribution of basic food basket..

    August 1, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  28. Michael Dahn

    The "cash for clunkers" program seems to reward those who have little or no interest in their environmental impact. Those individuals who previously purchased smaller vehicles with small engines and good gas economy are inelligible for this program. Individuals who at one time bought vehicles with no thought of gas economy stand to benefit. The message is: foresight and forethought on the part of that segment of the population who exhibits responsible behavior is underappreciated in our social structure. This may result in "social behavioral creep". That is, the more stimulus that is applied to those who have no interest in collective social improvement, the larger that group grows because fringe members gravitate to the faction that reaps benefit.

    August 1, 2009 at 10:45 am |