the (new) american worker

Cash for Caulkers: Not Exactly a Done Deal

With a healthy 346-68 lead, the House passed yesterday the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, a bill that offers tax incentives for investment in home energy efficiency, with the hopes of creating scores of new auditing and construction jobs. Of course, with the passage of a bill now humorously termed “Cash for Caulkers,” the usual flood of celebratory DC press releases flooded the wires.

Beyond the press release: Unless DC Democrats can make the budget cuts required by Republican support of the new Home Star jobs bill, the "Cash for Caulkers" program is just an empty promise.

From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office: “The legislation will create nearly 168,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, and retail – some of the hardest hit sectors during the Bush recession.” (LOL, the “Bush recession” – kudos to the communications officers for that one).

From Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA): “I am pleased that this legislation will incentivize targeted job training and financial assistance for low-income communities and the chronically unemployed.”

Woo! What a great bill, right? Creating good jobs for American workers building energy efficient infrastructure, WHILST trimming back tax burdens. Um, well kind of – as Atlantic Journal Constitution blogger Jamie Dupree notes, Democrats actually turned against this bill in early voting, in protest of a Republican “Deficit Neutrality” motion. This motion essentially mandated that the costs of the “Cash for Caulkers” program be offset by new revenues or cutbacks elsewhere to come into effect. Without cuts or new revenue creation, it will, in effect, be a nothing bill. After some wrangling, Democrats voted with the motion, meaning they have some work to do before any of those promised jobs can be created. Of course, with the House passage,  the Senate now faces a similar challenge.

In my opinion, politicians need to get to work on this issue – and fast. After all, these jobs aren’t handouts – they are in high demand. Even before the dangling of tax credits, it has been clear Americans want to improve their homes. I recall an article in the Atlantic a few months back that followed the training of two brothers as energy auditors – one a former real estate broker psyched for the huge demand for his new-found talents. In light of this promise, let’s hope Washington can get it together and find a place – with some real meaning behind it  – for the Cash for Caulkers program.