fresh voices from the front lines of change







Last week, in Jobs: It’s BOLD PLAN Time, I listed three badly-needed plans for creating jobs:

* A 5-year plan to revive American manufacturing. This is how our country and our people can make a living again.
* A 5-year plan to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century, making our economy competitive again.
* A 5-year plan to make our homes, buildings and electric grid energy efficient to lower our energy costs and reduce our imports of oil.

I wrote,

These are things that we have to do anyway. We have a lot of unemployed people, and any one of these three plans will put a huge dent in unemployment. Any one of these three revives our economy. Any one of these three restores American competitiveness. ALL THREE restore us as the economy leader in the world.

And, the politics will be good because it is what is needed and good for the country and everyone knows it.

Energy Retrofitting

So let’s look at the outline of the idea for hiring unemployed people to retrofit homes and buildings to be energy efficient. How simple is this idea? It pays for itself by making our entire economy more efficient, lowering our energy bill.

In the 1992 Presidential campaign, Jerry Brown proposed boosting the economy and helping the energy/pollution/Middle East problem with a national program to hire unemployed people to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient.. 1992 — almost 20 years ago! Imagine if we had 20 years of energy efficiency behind us!

More recently USW President Leo Gerard has been a champion of this idea.

Here are a few benefits of this idea:
1) You can start this right now. Tomorrow. This has been “shovel-ready” for 20 years. Pick a city, hire 1000 workers, train them, give them supplies, send them out block by block to work on homes and buildings. Scale it up to ten cities, then 100, then the whole country.
2) It employs people. This should be a priority of our government — not cutting Social Security! Retrofitting a home or office building to be energy efficient is not a high-skill job. You seal up cracks and openings. You insulate walls and ceilings. Maybe you install double-pane windows, or reflective film. You don’t need a college degree to prepare you to do this work.
3) It makes our economy more efficient and therefore more competitive in the world. The lower energy use reduces our trade deficit and reduces the money flowing to unstable regions.
4) The insulation, windows, reflective films, etc., should be made in America, stimulating our industries.
5) The employed are paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment and/or food stamps. The lower costs are helping people pay mortgages and businesses make profits. The supplies are helping American manufacturers.

This list goes on. This is a simple idea. The only downside of this idea is that it reduces our dependence on the giant oil companies that provide so much of the funding for lobbyists, the conservative movement and the Tea Party. (Which may be just enough to kill the idea.)

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