October 19, 2009

PPOD 10/19/09: Cash for Reefers

Oh, please – when will this end! Now the government is offering a ‘cash for clunkers’ program for refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers, and it's my Pet Peeve, or PPOD, of the day.

While the program was originally announced a while back, I’ll be honest, I likely put it out of my mind because I thought it was dopey then…and I think it’s dopey now. Particularly here in the Empire State, where we’re pretty adept at taking a dumb thing and making it worse.

Unlike some states that are offering the rebates now, we’re not going to – we’re holding off on doing anything other than announce that the rebates will be available in February.

Sure stinks to be a salesman who’s trying to make a living between now and then, since there’s no real impetus to buy before the modest rebates kick in. Stores are offering their own discounts, or offering rebates equivalent to the anticipated 2010 amount, so folks will come in, look around and maybe – just maybe – make a purchase.

But here’s the thing: stores do that all the time. Every day. Sometimes twice a day, it seems; you can’t get out of the way of the ads on TV, the Internet intrusions, and flyers in the daily newspaper, not to mention direct mail campaigns begging us to shop. And while I appreciate that retail markets are sputtering, I don’t appreciate that our tax dollars are being used to prop up cherry-picked industries that have the loudest lobbyist or bureaucrat in their corner. Unlike Cash for Clunkers for cars, with Cash for Reefers you can get the rebate without turning in your old energy-guzzling model, so the old 'this is good for the environment’ argument can’t even be made.

What I really don’t appreciate is that we’re discouraging people from making purchases as responsible consumers, with free will and financial power over whether or not they spend their money. We’re becoming a nation that can’t act without a sweetener from the Totally Addicting Rebate Program, or TARP. Oh wait, that was the 2008 Stimulus package, now we’re into the 2009 stimulus program. How about America’s Recurring Rebate Addiction, for ARRA?

Like we used to ask folks on prank calls when we were kids, “Is your refrigerator running?” If the adult who answered the phone said yes, we’d say “well, you better go and catch it!” Today I’d add, “If it’s not, for heaven’s sake go buy a new one – just don’t wait for me to help you pay for it.”

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