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
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.
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