Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saving America by Buying a New Car or Getting Rid of One

Before I start, forgive my lateness in discussing this topic. It takes me awhile to process things, like months, actually.
Talk about mixed messages? 9 years ago we were told that one of the best ways to get America back on track was to buy a new car. All the auto companies were offering zero percent interest to make the purchase more palatable and pretty much every commercial was for some new, albeit boring, (don't get me started on how humdrum and plain cars are nowadays) 'American-made' car. We were also told to shop at the mall and basically just buy, buy, buy. Didn't really matter what, we needed to buy crap to keep America #1.
Flash forward to summer 2009 and the Cash for Clunkers program. All the cars we bought in late 2001 and early 2002 we should now turn in as a clunker? This program would put cash into our pockets to stimulate the economy and, by the way, we should also buy another new car with some of that clunker money while we're out. Clearly, a car purchased in 2001 wouldn't be a clunker in 2009 unless it was a Yugo, Pacer, Pinto or an Aztek. Of course, none of these cars were available in 2001 except the Aztek, a car my parents actually bought, love and still drive. But I'm getting off point.
I know that this is a simplistic point of view as I tend to be a bit naive about these things but isn't there another way? Talk of late is that the Cash for Clunkers program didn't really achieve the desired effect and we all know what the rampant debt incurred after 9/11 has done for America's and our own personal bottom lines.
While there are a lot of folks that are trimming expenses and looking for ways to save, the prevailing wisdom is to continue to spend. Aren't we told, with excitement or despair, how overall spending, month to month, is in this country. If it's up we feel more optimistic, when it falls we get depressed.
I think there's a message in all of this - exactly what that message might be is certainly debatable but it might just be, 'hey, let's keep the still-running-fine 1997 car we have, trim some household expenses and maybe decide to wear something in our own closet rather than buy that new dress while we help stimulate the economy by going to a play, giving to charity, or eating dinner in a local restaurant. Let's do this while we also figure out a way to get the school systems a little more scratch.'
Just a thought.

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