Friday, August 21, 2009

Stacking 'em Deep, Selling 'em Cheap

Once again, the mind wanders on the overnight shift......

The AP reported that Tito Jackson announced he'll pay tribute to his brother during a series of concerts in England. I know nothing about Tito or his act, but I can't help but think that the fact that he is even able to put on several shows in England is itself a tribute to Michael's reflected star power.

As the health care reform "debate" slops about like mud wrestling, my own health insurance naturally comes to mind. As I understand it, the State of South Dakota actually insures itself and hires DakotaCare to process the paperwork; a public/private combo. I wonder if such an arrangement could be modified to include everyone and still be made acceptable to enough people to get it implemented. Another personal angle is the fact that my daughter will soon be kicked off my insurance for the crime of turning 19 and not being a full-time student. We are exploring some options, but universal insurance would simplify life considerably.

I see the cash-for-clunkers program is being closed down amid claims of success, but I think a bit of restraint is in order. The largest total sales number associated with it that I saw was 472,000, so it may make half a million by the end. New car sales for this year were being projected at roughly 10 million, compared to 13 million in 2008 and 16 million in 2007, so while the program provided a nice bump, it was essentially a gigantic government-sponsored clearance sale, not an industry saver. It's also hard to say how many of those sales would have happened without the program or how many were pulled forward to the detriment of next year. In addition, I saw that of the top selling cars in the program, only one - the Ford Focus – is made by a U.S.-based manufacturer. I haven’t seen any reports of what is being traded in, but it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a lot of domestic-brand SUVs and big old gas-guzzlers, which means the domestics lost more ground in terms of people owning their products and therefore caring about them. This can only hurt their still-precarious position. I do applaud the exchange of gas hogs for more fuel-efficient vehicles, and not just from an environmental and economic point of view. As someone who has been driving small cars for some time, I can appreciate having fewer large vehicles clogging up roads and blocking views. But overall I think it's best to think of the program as a day's rain during a long drought; momentary relief, but nothing more.