Cash for Caulkers: It's Just Corporate Welfare in 'Green' Clothing

Cash for Caulkers: Corporate Welfare in 'Green' Clothing Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called Cash for Caulkers bill, which will provide nearly $6 billion worth of rebates for homeowners who buy energy-efficient appliances, install energy-efficient windows and doors, and otherwise make green-friendly improvements to their homes.

The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act will, in some form, almost certainly be signed into law by President Obama after a quick passage through the Senate. There's still no word on how the program will be paid for. According to CNN, "The bill would fund rebates of as much as 50%, up to $3,000, for energy-saving efforts such as insulation improvements and the replacement of windows, doors, heating and cooling systems. The installations will have to be completed by qualified contractors."

There's just one problem: If this bill is really about saving energy, shouldn't consumers get an even larger tax credit for simply throwing out their air conditioners? An energy-efficient air conditioner is great, but leaving your windows open or sweating it out during the summer is by far the most green-friendly thing you can do.

Glorified Bailout

But of course the bill provides no tax incentives for people to simply "do without." Why not? Because the bill has nothing to do with helping the environment. That's just marketing. The real purpose of Cash for Caulkers is to toss taxpayer funds to a cadre of politically well-connected corporations and labor unions.

Just like Cash for Clunkers -- which according to some estimates actually had a net negative impact on the environment -- Washington is using the marketing spin of "energy efficiency" and "green friendly" to extract money from taxpayers (and, more accurately, future generations) and provide a glorified bailout to corporations and unemployed workers in the manufacturing and service sectors. We can have an honest debate about whether bailouts for select industries are a good idea. But to wrap bailouts in a green flag is cynical and disingenuous.

If the goal is really to help the planet, subsidies should be directed at used- and vintage-furniture stores -- which repurpose castoffs to allow people to decorate their homes without any adverse environmental consequences.

Too bad the used-goods sector doesn't have lobbyists: Your local flea market dealer would be rich by now.
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