End-of-Life Counseling

She hadn’t brought me into this world, but she sure carried me around a lot in it. She took me to places I never thought I’d go. She warmed me when I was cold and protected me when I was scared. She entertained me with music and enlightened me with talk.

In recent years, though, she had become more and more disabled, less and less useful. She eventually went quiet. I simply sat in her presence, listening only to the wind outside.

Was it time to set the wheels in motion toward a planned expiration? I was her guardian, so to speak, and I contemplated the options.

Then, everything changed. I closely examined the details and realized that my 1998 Volkswagen Passat got too good of gas mileage for eligibility in the Cash for Clunkers program!

Her radio no longer worked, but she still got a combined highway/city 22 miles per gallon, 4 mpg over the program’s maximum for passenger vehicles!

My emotions were mixed. I sure wanted a $4,500 subsidy for my next car purchase. Who wants to miss a free lunch? Not many, which is why the initial $1 billion allocation for the program was hardly enough.

On the other hand, I really didn’t want a car payment, nor did I want to see the girl who never left me stranded choke to death on liquid glass. (Federal rules mandated that every trade-in run on a sodium silicate solution until the engine block locked up.)

So, I was relieved when my vehicle’s end of life question got pushed to another day. She seemed to purr a little sweeter after that as if to say, “You really weren’t going to ditch me for that bimbo Prius were you?”

No, honey. It was just a moment of weakness in front of a pretty government handout.

The Cash for Clunkers program seemed so surreal: A central government entices its citizens to relinquish valuable assets in order to splurge on equipment they may have likely purchased in the near future anyway.

The relinquished (and running) vehicles, which could be used to, say, transport jobless citizens to promising employment across town, are then destroyed.

If the goal was pollution reduction, perhaps cash for clunky heavy machinery, locomotives and transport trucks would have gotten us fewer fumes for our buck.

And if the goal was economic stimulus, we should have put the dollars into research and development in order to manufacture sooner the powerful, spacious, affordable, high-mpg vehicles that sell on every weekend of the year, not just the three in August when Uncle Sam brings his checkbook.


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