Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cash for clunkers.
Not all of the chickens have landed!

That great wise man from the east, Senator Charles Shumer, has declared Cash For Clunkers a great success. I say, not so fast, Senator... let's wait until all the chickens have landed!

Following the polio scare of the 1940s, there arose the drive-in theater craze of the 1950s. Advised to avoid close contact with strangers, people flocked to the drive-ins to see movies from their cars, somewhat insulated from their fellow patrons. The drive-ins became so popular, soon there were too many of them. Theater operators resorted to all sorts of promotions to generate more ticket sales.

One operator I knew came up with what seemed like a fun idea. "Catch a free chicken dinner" headlined his promotion. He acquired a number of healthy "fryers" and hoisted them in a crate to the roof of the concession stand. During intermission, the chickens were to be released into the air, one at a time. Catch one, and it was your free chicken dinner.

When the event began, the first chicken was launched into the air. The chicken could not fly well enough to escape, but could flutter safely to the ground. A number of hands awaited its descent. Suddenly a taller, more agile person leaped above the crowd, snatched the chicken from the air, and ran with it to his car.

Chicken #2 was launched. As before, several who thought the prize would be theirs were shoved aside and a more aggressive person stole the chicken.

We've seen the angry scramble among baseball fans when a home run ball is smacked into their midst. But for most fans, in most games, this rarely happens more than once. In our chicken event, some folks were pushed aside several times, and their anger grew.

Unlike a hard-to-hang-onto round baseball, every chicken has two wings, two legs and a neck. Soon chickens were being caught by several people at the same time, and a tug-of-war resulted. When someone with an iron grip on a chicken's leg suddenly realized that a bloody leg part was all they had, there was nothing left to them but to start beating the intruder with that part of the chicken.

Some non-participating bystanders, with no stomach for killing and dressing their own chicken dinner, found themselves smeared in blood and feathers and their anger mounted. They entered the fray. Not until the last chicken had landed did anyone realize the full extent of the disaster.

$3 billion has been allotted for Cash for Clunkers. With the maximum allowance at $4,500.00 each, that would mean 666,666.6 could participate. Since not all will receive the maximum, it is apparent that the program will exceed one million transactions. Already we have seen some fraud, with cars intended for destruction, slipped out the back gate and sold.

Of course, the cash allowances do not fully cover the cost of the new car, so even in a recession, people are scraping up additional money to buy cars. There are now complaints that, while stimulating auto sales, the clunkers program has seriously hurt other segments of the economy. Just last week, retail sales, excluding autos, were down .6%!

You know, as well as I, that there will be a lot more blood and feathers flying before it is all over.

Better stand back and be quiet, Senator, less you, too, get bloodied!

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