Monday, August 24, 2009

24 AUG 09: A Little Too Loose

The "cash for clunkers" program to stimulate car sales ends tonight. It's really been a no-win idea for President Obama. Republicans have complained about government paperwork and a possible dearth of used cars - while quietly hoping no one would take advantage of the offer, and the program actually WAS a clunker.

My 15-year-old humble Honda wasn't eligible for the clunker promotion, because its gas mileage simply is too good. I made the first tank of my recent trip to Orlando at 37 miles per gallon. Beyond that, I'm not really sure - since the engine is working much better than my odometer.

Yet other recent economic actions in Washington are affecting me here at home. A letter several weeks ago revealed the credit line on one of my cards is being reduced by two-thirds. I've heard credit counselors suggest people cut up their plastic - but I didn't think the credit card company would do it for me.

"We noticed that you have used only a limited amount of your credit line with us," the letter said. To be honest, I'd noticed the same thing for years -- because this company had ballooned my credit line to $23,700. And the company did it without even asking me. It was almost like parking a new BMW in my driveway, and walking off with the keys still in the ignition.

It's my longstanding rule to pay off all my credit card bills in full every month. This company apparently was so astounded by that practice that it kept raising my credit line over the years. Some might say the company was encouraging me to be irresponsible. But I was too "old-school" for them - too focused on the smell of my checkbook than the feel of that plastic.

I knew I didn't need a $23,700 limit on my credit card. Even when I tried to start a frisbee league three years ago, I didn't charge that card at anything close to the line. To borrow from local law enforcement, I knew I might be "over the limit - under a bridge."

Financial experts warn cuts in your credit card limits can have a negative impact on your credit score. But I'd think how you actually use the card matters more than how much you're expected to use it. Of course, that also may explain why some liberals are frustrated so far with President Obama....

So when you hear news reports about how big bad credit card companies are slashing credit lines, keep something in mind - they actually could be bringing those lines down to where they belong. The big cut on that one card still keeps my limit at $7,500. And I'm still not interested in dining out at Bludau's every night for the next four months.

As it happens, a consumer survey is asking me to collect all the credit card offers I receive in the mail this month. We also did this two years ago [30 Nov 07], but the mailings are awfully scarce so far. The only company to write me so far is American Express, offering a "Blue" card. Nice try, but you need a Jayhawk mascot with that color on it.

Speaking of the economy: did you see the Liberty Theater's production over the weekend? It was a locally-produced comedy with a recession theme, called "Stimulus." I'm a little surprised one of those nightclubs on Victory Drive hasn't offered a (ahem) stimulus package yet - especially for men.

Let's put our wallets back in our pockets now, and check other weekend items....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was only 82 degrees F. Around here, some considered it a preview of fall and turned off their air conditioners. In Minnesota, some complain about 82-degree summer heat and turn them on.

+ Columbus Police told WTVM a man stole a squad car at 11th and Broadway at 3:00 a.m. By the time he was stopped at 42nd Street and Second Avenue, two wheels of the police car reportedly were gone. Those NASCAR races on Saturday nights simply are setting a bad example....

+ The Bill Purvis telecast on WLTZ included an admission by the Cascade Hills Church Pastor. When members give testimonies on tithing during January, they get several calls in the next few days from people asking for handouts. So? Why give to a church assistance fund for the needy when you can cut through the middleman -- even if you lose the tax deduction?

+ A helicopter gunner involved in the 1968 "My Lai Massacre" spoke out about William Calley's speech at a Columbus Kiwanis Club. Lawrence Colburn told National Public Radio Calley should go back to Vietnam, and apologize to the survivors of the attack. Wow, that's asking a lot - since it took Calley 30-plus years to summon the courage simply to speak to a Kiwanis Club.

(NPR also has interviewed Al Fleming about the visit, since Fleming invited William Calley to speak at last week's Kiwanis Club meeting. I don't know how Fleming got through the interview without lashing out against Robert Siegel for being a flaming liberal.)

+ Instant Message to all Ledger-Enquirer readers: I almost forgot to ask you -- which part of page one stunned you most on Friday? The big headline calling William Calley a "convicted murderer?" Or a front-page local article on the start of the Muslim festival of Ramadan?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.27 a gallon at Big Cat on U.S. 80 in Ladonia.... two dozen cookies for $2.25 at the Publix bakery.... and some Republicans calling on Donald Trump to ban Venezuela from the Miss Universe pageant....

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Reader e-mail about the "six-pack" we met....

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