by Felicia Donovan
I felt somewhat vindicated back in February 2008 as I slipped the final car payment into the envelope, gave it a good lick and mailed it off. Free at last, free at last. A few weeks later, the vehicle title arrived in the mail to prove it was officially mine.
My van, with its 70K plus miles, was still doing duty after many years of porting me through New England blizzards and ice storms to get to the Police Department where I worked. Nobody ever calls a Snow Day when you work in Public Safety and my van has done a good job of getting me there even when the going was tough.
"I'll drive it into the ground," I thought. I rubbed my hands together gleefully as I tried to estimate just how many years I could be without a monthly car payment. So what's all the hoopla about "Cash for Clunkers?"
First of all, if it's running and it's drivable, it's not really a "clunker." I know a clunker when I see one. The hub caps are all gone, the windshield is sealed in place with bathroom caulk, the foam padding from the seat cushions juts out all over the place and flies through the air when the windows are down, and there's more duct tape than metal. I haven't seen any program cars that look like that. The mere fact that you can drive it onto the car lot proves it's not really a "clunker." What was Washington thinking?
Secondly, somebody's got to figure out what this program is all about. Do they really want to clean up the environment and make it healthier for us all by putting more fuel-efficient cars on the road? How about issuing a law banning cigarettes first? I betcha that will do more for my health and my children's health than trading a car in that gets 5 more miles to the gallon. No disrespect to the President, but if you want to set a really good example for the American public, quit the sticks.
How about instead of trading in my 2003 van for a 2010 car that gets a few more miles to the gallon and paying me $4500 in the process, I get to trade in my house with its leaky walls and windows for a new one? There's a housing glut out there, in case you haven't noticed. Not only will I be improving the environment with my nice new R-Factor insulation, I won't be contributing to the coffers of the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia trying to keep it heated in the winter. I'll even stimulate the economy by committing to shopping locally to buy furniture to fill my new rooms.
While I can't claim to be a true-blood Yankee, I've lived in New England for over twenty-five years so that old adage swirls in my head wherever I go. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And if it ain't broke, why get rid of it and take on the burden of a monthly payment? Doesn't that increase our debt and isn't that how we got into trouble in the first place?
When the Government decides to let me have the new car but not burden me with payments every month, I'll reconsider. Meanwhile, I'll keep my trusty old van with the dented bumper and scratches and drive it into the ground payment-free. Sure, I could get a few more miles to the gallon, but is that any reason to toss it aside? Besides, I've got a few dents and scratches myself and I'd like to think I'm not ready for the junk pile because of it.