Archive for August 3, 2009

Is “Cash for Clunkers” Really Removing Gas Guzzlers?

From the Orlando Sentinel:

The $1 billion ” Car Allowance Rebate System,” known by most everyone as “cash for clunkers,” pays consumers between $3,500 and $4,500, depending on the fuel mileage of the new vehicle, to trade in their old, presumably gas-guzzling and polluting vehicles.

Is that what’s happening in Central Florida? While participating dealers are definitely seeing an upturn in business, a tour of several local car dealers suggests that the vehicles being traded in don’t fit that “gas-guzzling, polluting” stereotype. And that could be one big reason why the CARS funds are being depleted at a much faster rate than anyone expected.

How so? Well, looking at more than 20 “clunker” trade-ins, most could not be classified as “guzzlers,” even though they had to average 18 miles per gallon or worse to qualify.

There were, for example, two Chrysler minivans with V-6 engines. A very nice Ford Windstar minivan with a V-6, full leather interior, a six-disc CD player and what appeared to be brand-new tires.

Three Ford Explorers with V-6 engines, a Cadillac with a V-6, two midsized Dodge Dakota pickups, two six-cylinder Jeep Cherokees, a full-sized Dodge conversion van with a V-6. A Ford Ranger extended-cab pickup with a V-6.

There were no Chevrolet Suburbans, Lincoln Town Cars, Ford Crown Victorias, Chevrolet Caprices. No full-sized pickups. No land-yacht station wagons.

There was, however, a nice Ford Mustang convertible, red with a white top and white leather interior.

So what’s going on?

The government’s contribution of $4,500 — and Sun State Ford, for instance, has done only one $3,500 deal, with the rest being for $4,500— is pretty generous. And granted, of the 20-odd “clunkers” I looked at, none was worth more than $4,500. Even the clean, Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with the 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine is worth less than that, regardless of its new set of Michelin tires, which probably cost at least $500.

So even if you could sell a vehicle for $4,000, you’d still come out better trading it in and getting $4,500. That seals the fate of even the red Mustang convertible.

That fate being, of course, that the dealer will pour 2 quarts of sodium silicate, essentially liquefied sand, into the oil crankcase and start the engine and run it until it seizes up. Then the whole vehicle will be loaded onto a trailer, or towed behind a wrecker, to a junkyard where it will be crushed or shredded. The junkyard can sell parts off the vehicles, but how many will bother to do that is unknown.

Granted, some of the vehicles on the “clunker” lots have problems: A clean extended-cab Dodge Dakota with custom wheels has transmission trouble, as does a Ford Explorer next to it. Ian Riding, sales manager for Sun State, said the Explorer belonged to a mechanic who worked there, who would have had to install an $800 transmission to keep the Explorer running. But instead, he got $4,500 toward a new car.

Still, it’s a little heartbreaking to know than within the next few days, the coveted 5.0-liter engine in the Mustang will be reduced to a smoldering, unsalvageable chunk of metal.

And that Windstar Limited minivan with the leather interior and the luggage rack, which looks like it should be waiting outside soccer practice to transport the team, will be crushed and recycled.

But wasn’t this supposed to happen to lane-blocking, gas-guzzling, smoke-belching old land yachts that get single-digit gas mileage?

Guess not. If the purpose of CARS is to keep sales for auto manufacturers and dealers moving along, and to get more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, then I suppose it works. But I’d just as soon not be there when that red Mustang convertible meets the crusher.

Hmmmmm. Let’s see. Would I rather spend $800 for a new transmission, or $300 or more per month for the next 5 years for a new vehicle? Gotta think about that one for about 2 seconds.

What this program seems to be doing is removing older used family vehicles from the market. Not a lot of trucks there? Not surprised. Can’t replace those with an econobox if you have to actually haul things.

The only time you should consider buying a new vehicle for fuel economy reasons is when the total cost of gas plus your new car payment plus your higher insurance payment for a new vehicle is the same as or less than what you would be putting into the gas tank and spending on maintenance on your paid for older vehicle.

Other things to consider as well: In some states, registration costs on a new vehicle is MUCH more expensive than an old vehicle. That money adds up, people!

*sigh* I’ve left drool marks over the MINI Cooper until SwampMan pointed out that (a) we couldn’t actually get it into the driveway without scraping the bottom out of it, and (b) how would I fit 3 grandkids, another adult, car seats, diaper bags, and a cooler for the beach into one?

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SwampMan Got Me Good Today

I was sitting in the living room folding clothes. I dunno why, since they’ll shortly be worn and why not just leave ’em in the basket and skip the intermediate step of folding and putting away? While I was contemplating streamlining household chores by simply not doing them, SwampMan poked his head in the side door hollering for me.

“Hey, where you at?”

“In the living room, folding clothes!”

“Why bother? You’re just going to take ’em out of the drawer and wear ’em. I’ve got something to show you.”

“What?” I asked trustingly.

“This!” and with that, a very unhappy 5-foot long rat snake that was wrapped around his arm, its neck held firmly just below the head in SwampMan’s huge hand was thrust at me. Its tongue flicked out at me.

Screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH” while jumping straight up into the air, knocking the formerly folded clothes onto the floor was my response. SwampMan grinned, happy.

“OHMYGAWD, it’s the same size as that bigass snake pup killed a few days ago! I’ve been smelling snake, and was worried that there might be a big rattler lurking.”

“Did you smell it in my little building where you were storing feed?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! It was in by my FEED?”

“Yep, back by the pump.”

“Well, I guess you won’t be leaving the door open for hours anymore, will you?”

“Nope. Makes me wonder what might be in the garage now.”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

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AP Says Foreclosures Stabilized in June and That’s a Good Thing

Even as Americans suffer rising unemployment, foreclosure rates in three states hit hardest by the housing bust — California, Arizona and Florida — stabilized in June, offering hope that the worst of the real estate crisis is over, according to The Associated Press’ monthly analysis of economic stress in more than 3,100 U.S. counties.

Read the whole thing here.

Heh. I’d be more inclined to think that the banks were deliberately refraining from foreclosing on houses and putting them on the market because they’re holding the assets in their balance sheet valued at a higher price than the true market value. I would say that all the banks in Florida that financed the insane building frenzy that took place in the last few years are effectively bankrupt.

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Conference on EMP

From Al Fin:

EMP attack by rogue states or by independent actors supported by rogue states, is increasingly likely. Whether a successful paralysis of the US electrical grid would require the extra-atmospheric detonation of a single nuke or multiple nukes, is irrelevant. More than enough nuclear material can be made available by enemies of the US to cause untold hardship and tens of trillions of dollars in infrastructure damage.

While the US military may be sufficiently hardened against such an attack to continue functioning, the US at large is not. The loss of US economic productivity caused by a large scale EMP attack would force the US military to withdraw from foreign activities on land, sea, and in the air in order to assist in the recovery and defense — if necessary — of the far-flung regions of the US proper.

EMP, dirty bombs, biological attacks, and soon nanotechnology attacks are becoming easier and more realistic by the year. While resources and attention are diverted to phantom climate fears, genuine threats are going unmet.

It is clear that the Obama / Pelosi reich is uninterested in anything but the consolidation of power, and elimination of all potential centres of opposition from government and the private sector. It is up to individuals, private groups, and state / county governments to prepare for real threats, essentially without help from the federal government.

Read the rest for information about the conference if you are interested.

My opinion? Too many people rely on a dysfunctional federal government to “do something” but I believe that letting state/county/city government off the hook for self-protection/emergency planning and relying on a far away agency like FEMA or DHS to be responsible is….unfortunate, at best.

Preparedness begins at home. Make sure that you have enough food/water/medications on hand to at least go through a 3-month period (the more, the better). Learn to shoot so that your neighbor(s) who didn’t prepare can’t take it away and leave your family to starve. In an emergency situation with electricity/transportation cut off for a long period of time, the government will have to make some hard choices as to who is going to get how much of whatever food is left. Do you have a skill/specialized knowledge that would help the community that would justify keeping you alive and fed while others starve? If not, be doubly sure to have a good food storage/ammo storage program and some like-minded friends to fort up with. Even better, work on developing a skill that the community would need* in a survival situation.

*Marketing isn’t a survival skill. Computer skills aren’t survival skills, either, if all of the computers are dead.

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Which Florida City Residents Enjoy Highest Per Capita Income?

Which of these Florida cities – Orlando, Tampa, Miami or Jacksonville – would you suppose has the highest per capita income?

Which of the three would you guess has the least unemployment? How about the least drop in home prices in the last couple of years?

Finally, which of the three do you suppose is predicted to enjoy the greatest rate of job growth in the coming three years?

If you answered Jacksonville, correctly, to all of those questions, you may be among those who appreciate just how much this area has going for it. Read the rest at Jacksonville.com.

And which major Florida coastal city is least likely to be wiped out by a hurricane?

Jacksonville gets no respect. It doesn’t have a large, friendly rodent. Tourists don’t flock here. Retirees don’t flock here (except for military retirees). The naval base is a major employer, and we LOVE our military. Jacksonville always has been and always will be a working city.

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Think Government Health “Care” is a Good Idea? Cortisone Injections Being Cut to Save Money for NHS

From the Telegraph:

The Government’s drug rationing watchdog says “therapeutic” injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.

Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.

I’m wondering if cases where the cause is known, such as degenerative disc disease or severe osteoarthritis, will be forced to do acupuncture instead.

H/T Ed at GCP

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