McAdams On: Converter Coupon Disparity

There are now about four DTV converter-box coupons for every U.S. household lacking TV reception. Was there a significant need in cold climates for pocket-sized ice scrapers? Where are these things going? Demand spiked for the little plastic coupons on July 31, the final day of the program, when the Commerce Department received 169,000 requests--three times the preceding daily average.

They are quite handsome, actually; snappy red with a very official-looking federal logo. I personally will miss using the government-supplied image of the coupon, which I’ve plastered on related stories over the last two years. If Cash-for-Clunkers had a similarly attractive coupon, the program might have got off the ground.

Maybe Cash-for-Clunkers drove the run on DTV converter coupons. Clunkers and converters comprise the only two government hand-outs that just about anyone can get. There is the small necessity of having a clunker to get the related rebate. And in all likelihood, the pesky nuisance of having a job to make the payments because there are no $4,500 new cars. Then there’s the requisite desire to take on another payment. All in all, the bicycle starts looking pretty good, as does the DTV converter coupon. Forty large, good for a $60 box. That’s a deal, really.

It makes me wish I would have applied for a couple. Oh, that’s right. I did. On the first day of the program. Never heard a word. And I knew some of the people running the program. That just goes to show the depth and breadth of my influence. Yes indeedie-do.

So I will get neither cash for a clunker nor will I get $40 for a DTV converter box. I will merely help pay for them. Thank you cards, though somewhat out of vogue, are always welcome here.

But back to there being four times as many coupons as needy homes, and twice as many if they have two TVs like most households do unless you’re Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), then you have eleventy-five and brag about it during a hearing at which you object to funding the coupon program. Maybe therein lies the explanation for this mysterious disparity in coupons versus households left in the digital dust.

Lawmakers, notorious for doing as little as possible at the very last minute, inundated the coupon program with requests on the last day. Just to make sure they’d actually get that $40 bene, they had everyone in their extended families apply as well. It’s probably for the best. It would be a tragedy if members of Congress couldn’t vote on “American Idol.” Who knows what else they’d dream up if they weren’t otherwise distracted?

I’m sure we’ll find out.