22 August 2009

Failure to Communicate

"What we have here is...failure to communicate." - Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke. One of the greatest lines in the history of film. Spoken by the captain of a prison or which Luke, played by Paul Newman, was a resident. As the story goes, Luke tries unsuccessfully several times to escape the prison only to be returned a captured fugitive destined for time in the box. Luke didn't "get it."

Cash for Clunkers. Sounded good. A rebate program where customers get $3,500-$4,500 for trading in their less-efficient vehicles on the purchase of a new one. So let me see how this works: 1) customer goes to car dealership; 2) customer picks out a car/truck that gets better gas mileage than his/her current vehicle (not too complicated so far); 3) dealership gets reimbursed by government for that qualifying trade-in. Simple!

One would think. However, there's this illogical place in the brains and innerworkings of the government that DOES NOT ALLOW anything to be simple. The government cannot do it! No matter how hard it tries, it has to screw it up; it has to complicate it with forms, restrictions, fine print, double-speak, partial-truths, smoke screens, bait and switch. (You will notice that I quickly left the list of less serious process variation causes for the more intentional ones because that's how this phase of the Gov' rolls - deceptively).

So here we are a couple of days away from the expiration of said CFC program (there's a joke in there somewhere), and yet why isn't everyone excited about this program? Why isn't everyone ecstatic that such a program has plunged (word used intentionally for effect) billions of dollars into the economy? I'll tell you why. Because car dealers are worried about not being reimbursed by the government. That's right. Apparently the government hasn't reimbursed car dealers ANY MONEY (as of August 22, 2009) for this program. But this program's been going on for weeks (if not months). Some car dealers are stopping the program a few days early for fear that they WON'T get reimbursed.

Why is this difficult? The dealer fills out the correct form with the qualifying information (it can't be submitted without the exact information filled in); the dealer sends it to the Gov' (possibly electronically - I know, don't jinx it); and then the Gov' sends the dealer a check. Why is this hard? The dealer can't send in an incorrect form because the Gov' is the one that issued the form with strict restrictions on what qualifies for this program and what boxes to "fill in." The Gov' surely has a department for processing such forms (hopefully with no more than one person running it if you even need a person running it). IT'S TOO FRICKIN' SIMPLE TO SCREW UP!

However, this is what you get when the Gov' rolls out a program: a slick-sounding, can't miss, Poka-yoke, with no downside. Hmmm, this sounds a lot like a slick car salesman (yet another place for a joke).

What the hell, we should let the Gov' run health care. Now there's a good idea.