Cash for…Caulkers? | Citizens Against Government Waste
The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Cash for…Caulkers?

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


“Cash for Caulkers” sounds like a comical spin-off of the notorious “Cash for Clunkers” program.  But on May 6, 2010, the House of Representatives made sure this was no joke, voting 246-161 in favor of H.R. 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010.  The legislation authorizes a $5.7 billion program that will offer rebates to homeowners for renovations made using energy-efficient “green” materials, including better insulation and energy-saving windows and doors.

The Silver Star Home Energy Retrofit Program would provide rebates in varying amounts up to $3,000 for performing qualifying energy savings measures that meet efficiency and installation targets and standards.  Similarly, the Gold Star Program would provide rebates of up to $8,000 for retrofits that achieve whole home energy savings determined by a comparison of the simulated energy consumption of the home before and after the retrofit. 

The bill also authorizes $600 million for the purchase of replacement Energy Star-rated manufactured homes.  Additionally, a homeowner can receive $7,500 for the destruction and replacement of a manufactured home if income limits are met. 

Despite the $13 trillion national debt and nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, the Obama administration stubbornly stands by its big-spending agenda and has touted this program as yet another “jobs” bill.  Proponents argue that the program will stimulate the economy, lower greenhouse gas emissions and electric bills by decreasing overall energy use.

Republicans overwhelming opposed the bill due to its hefty price tag, pointing out that Cash for Caulkers is nothing more than a corporate welfare program and a bailout of politically connected for-profit companies.  The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce worked alongside the National Association of Manufacturers, Dow Chemical, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the contracting industry and the window industry lobbying for this bill.

Republicans, however, took home a small victory, attaching a condition that the program be terminated if Democrats do not find a way to finance it without driving up the federal deficit. They were also successful in removing a $324 million program in the original bill for states to provide funds to qualified financing entities for the installation of qualifying energy savings measures or whole-home energy savings.

This “Cash for Caulkers” program is separate from an energy tax credit of up to $1,500 that was included in the last year’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for Energy Star appliances.  In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report exposing some major flaws in the Energy Star program, including findings that the government had endorsed 15 fake products of 23 submitted for approval by GAO, including a gasoline powered alarm clock and an electric hammer. 

The two-year program will be administered through the Department of Energy (DOE), which has already proven to be an abysmal manager of the $4.7 billion Recovery Act weatherization program, under which only 30,297 homes have been weatherized, about 5 percent of the overall goal of more than 600,000.  The Home Star Energy Retrofit Program will undoubtedly experience the same administrative, implementation and oversight problems. 

The national debt continues to grow rapidly, yet lawmakers decided to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a superfluous program that sets onerous technical requirements, picks private sector winners and losers, and hands the reigns over to a mismanaged DOE to dole out funds.  Taxpayer money was squandered on the infamous “Cash for Clunkers” program; this “Cash for Caulkers” program will be no different.

-- Erica Gordon

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