Spend money you don’t have at dealerships that don’t exist

On the same day President Obama promoted a bill to put government check-writing on a frugal, pay-as-you-go basis, the House passed another one encouraging already heavily indebted Americans to assume even more personal debt by turning in their working clunker cars and buying brand-new shiny models they may not need in the first place.

I thought one of the main reasons we got into this economic mess was because we were living beyond our means, buying stuff we didn’t need, getting into debt up to our eyeballs and then begging the butchers of Beijing to underwrite it all. I sure hope future anthropologists can sift through this public policy rubble and sort it all out, because I sure can’t.


I never really thought of my banged-up 1988 Volvo — or a 1977 I recently had to tearfully part with — as a clunker, and I took it as a scientific challenge and point of nerdy personal pride when the odometer hit 200,000 for each. I know it might be a little bit old-fashioned, non-eco-friendly and politically incorrect to say, but perhaps if the old GM, the pre-Fiat-ed Chrysler and Ford were able to build cars that could promise 200,000 miles, we wouldn’t be in this fix to start with …

Dealer or no dealer

Speaking of this little matter of the dismantling of the American car industry as we know it, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and fellow Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) held a Wednesday news conference at the newly refurbished House Triangle media site to discuss the Automobile Dealer Economic Rights Restoration Act.

Maffei and Co. want a little transparency in a wretched process that is needlessly shuttering some highly trafficked and quite profitable car dealerships from coast to coast. With the national jobless rate approaching double digits, it seems to me that highly motivated car dealers and commissioned salesmen are exactly the kind of capitalistic shock troops we should be fighting to keep off the unemployment lines, and on the retail front lines, during the worst recession since the 1930s.

Can someone please explain to me how closing dealerships that are actually selling cars is going to increase car sales? It only makes sense economically if the manufacturers have a secret plan to jack up unit prices once consumers realize they have drastically fewer places to visit in the age-old American ritual of hitting multiple car dealerships and bargaining for the best deal.

The triangulation of Dan Maffei


Maffei, a freshman member of the House and former congressional staffer, achieved two milestones during his Wednesday news conference at the House Triangle. Not only did he get to introduce his first piece of legislation since becoming a member — Maffei conducted the first official news conference at the Triangle location since it was closed in 2002 to make way for the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center.

Be it by divine providence or the fickle finger of fate, Maffei actually lucked out with the Triangle first honors because a few other news conferences scheduled there were either canceled or moved indoors due to all the rain D.C. has been experiencing.

One of those canceled events was a Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerChuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy protection Bipartisan bill introduced to provide 0B in relief for restaurants OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance MORE (D-Ore.) news conference to introduce something called the United States Outdoor Act. If I really wanted to be in full-tilt snark mode, I’d suggest Blumenauer was now thinking of renaming his bill the United States Indoor Act. But that would make me a really bad person, right?

And so it begins …

Talking about indoor vs. outdoor media availabilities on Capitol Hill, HC-5 in the basement of the Capitol was the place to be Tuesday afternoon. Huddling behind closed doors to discuss the always emotional issue of healthcare reform, the hallways surrounding HC-5 were absolutely jammed with reporters of all stripes sniffing for crumbs after the important session.

Influential House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), attempting to navigate one of the side hallways after the meeting, suddenly and literally found himself penned in mid-stride by 20 reporters. Taking it all in good humor, Waxman found himself uttering one of the my all-time top 10 congressional clichés when he pronounced:

“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Perhaps looking to keep himself from pegging into the red zone on the Snark-O-Meter, Waxman soon added:

“I always hated that expression. Now I’m using it.”

Nice recovery, Mr. Chairman. Consider yourself officially off the hook.

Please pass along any snarky criticism, effusive praise or new entries into the congressional cliché file to Jim Mills at jmills@thehill.com.