Americans must collectively have the shortest memories on the planet. Either that or we didn’t learn a thing from the great collapse of just a few years ago.

Turn your TV on anytime around the evening news hour or anytime on Saturday morning when those hours are dominated by ads from car dealers. Saturday is popular because it’s the biggest car shopping day of the week. Dealers want to make sure customers know about the latest deals before they choose which showroom to land in. Listened to what the ads are saying.

The big collapse of ’08 started with the housing market, but the new car market was a factor as well. Remember the GM & Chrysler bailouts? For most people, their house is their largest source of debt and their car is a close second. American’s were living large back then, with houses and cars they couldn’t afford.

When the bubble burst homes, and to a lesser degree, cars lost their value and the debt to equity ratio on both flipped upside down. Now that we are (supposedly) working out from under all that we appear to be ready and willing to start the cycle again.

Twenty minutes ago I heard the same car dealer that I heard eight times last Saturday morning. She was still beating the drum. “Bring me your tired, your worn out, your nasty old car and I’ll send you home in a brand new one!”

Sounded good. Sounded even better when she told me that “even if my car isn’t worth what I owe, no problem!”, she is willing to give me up to $4,000.00 more than what my old one is worth if I’ll just come trade it for one of his new ones.

Seeing the problem yet? Are you seeing history repeating itself?

Similar pitches, political correctness and congressional pressure on banks led to the same kind of thinking on homes for the better part of a decade. Income levels were not checked, home appraisals were fudged, and down payment requirements were low, to non-existent, so we forged ahead! Everyone said, “No problem, buy that home you know you can’t afford and don’t have a chance in hell of paying for. It’ll be fine.” In fact, the plan worked so well that lots of people who knew little or nothing bought a second home just to flip. With free money flowing, interest only loans readily available and a hot market, why not?

So we did, but it wasn’t. The house of cards tumbled.

For five straight years now we’ve had people walking away from homes in record numbers. They can’t afford to keep them, nor can they take the loss of selling them. Instead, they just load up the furniture and leave the keys on the porch.

…Thousands of porches.

So now we fast forward to today; A day when cause and effect of events just experienced should still be forever etched into our brains. Clearly, they aren’t. Once again we are rushing into purchase we cannot afford. Once again we are willingly playing the role of Charley Brown, assuming that this time, Lucy won’t move the ball. Once again we are being willingly set up for failure and apparently, we don’t care. We want shiny, we want new and we want both now.

One would think that our legislators too might still have fresh memories of unpopular bailouts. You might even think that they would be monitoring these ads and investigating why the car dealers are once again offering the same programs that failed so badly just mere months ago?

Nah. They have bigger irons in the fire. Besides, who can resist that new car smell – even if it we know we can’t afford it.