Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Phenomenal Cosmic Power ... Itty, Bitty Living Space"

I used to be a huge fan of I Dream of Jeannie. I always thought it would be so very cool to be able to blink, and voila! anything I desired would be manifest in front of me.

I know that I wasn't alone in those feelings. In fact, the show addressed the issue of having so much power at one's command in one of the later episodes. In an attempt to prove that she could live without her powers for a day, Jeannie transfers her ability to Tony, who, in the face of having so much power, contemplates all of the good he can do.

Jeannie, having lived with this power her whole life, tells him that she understands how he feels, but warns him that what he does will have a ripple effect. Fixing a drought in one part of the world could create a devastating storm some place else. It's all well and good to want to fix the world, but, unfortunately, that's just not the way things work.

The message is that we can't *fix* the world, that things need to be able to work through their natural cycles. Sometimes life can be cruel, but that is part of living in this world where we live, and we can only do what little we can do in our little part of it.

That's what I was remembering this morning when I was reading the article Cash for Caulkers.

The idea is that by providing stimulus money to homeowners for energy updates, jobs will be provided.

I just wonder where the money is coming from. Who is going to pay for this "stimulus", and all of the other stimuli the government has given us? We think they're doing us some big favors, but consider where the government gets its money, and then, ask yourself if your pockets suddenly feel lighter.

... but I also wonder what the ripple effect will be.

I wish I could believe that it would be that simple, that there would be enough people out here in the real world (as opposed to the fantasy island that is Washington D.C., where for a small fee, Mr. Roarke will make all of their dreams come true) who could actually afford the energy updates, insulation, new appliances, and new windows to be able to take advantage of the (up to) $12,000 in rebates.

I wish I believed that there were enough people out here who are comfortable enough in their current circumstances to take advantage of some of these programs, but I don't believe it.

The thing that bothers me the most about the proposal, however, is that this type of program is already in place. We already have a program that provides rebates to homeowners who transition to more energy efficiency. If such a program were going to stimulate the economy and create new jobs, wouldn't it already have?

I just don't see how this new program will be different.

I also wonder about the broader effects, because with everything there is a ripple. Even my "Break the Chain" challenge has a ripple effect. If we all, suddenly, stopped shopping at Wal-Mart, *it* would fail, and the result would be the loss of thousands of jobs.

Personally, I think it's a small loss, to see the end of Wal-Mart, with huge, potential gains, but it would take months, if not years, to see any results.

And I guess that's what bothers me the most.

The current and recent past administrations are struggling so hard to find the quick fix, and there isn't one. Throwing money at it (and at us) isn't going to make it better. Making more policies, enforcing more government control, isn't going to make it better.

In times like this, we need *less* government, not more, because the government is expensive.

But I have some insulation left over from a project that I could lend to my neighbor. Neither of us would get any stimulation money for using the insulation, but it would give me some much-needed storage space and my neighbor a warmer house.

We have half a tank of oil sitting outside, but we don't heat with oil anymore. My neighbor has five cords of wood, but no woodstove.

We're doing a "Recycled Christmas" this year with our extended family, because no one has much extra cash for gifting.

In the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, the people, afraid of losing all of their savings, make a run on Bailey Building and Loan. He knows that they don't have the money in the vaults to give all of the account holders their complete balances. He says, "Your money is in his house and his money is in your store. So, how much do you need just to get by?"

That's where we all need to be, now. Big government isn't going to save us. The FDIC doesn't have the money to save the ailing banks, and Jeannie can't blink and make it all better.

But we can take just what we need to get by, and make sure our neighbor has just what he needs, too.

It's on the small scale, local, community level that "recovery" will happen, and nothing Washington tries to do will make it better.

This "Cash for Caulkers" program will be as successful as the "Cash for Clunkers" program was, which is to say, not much, and it will end up costing a lot more money than it generates for the working poor of this country.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, please don't tell me that I'm not the only one giggling at that headline? Cash for Caulkers? Seriously? Ha ha!

    But you're right, I know my parents took advantage of some kind of energy efficiency something or other. But--you also have to keep in mind that it was just coming out when the things like the furnace and a couple of the windows in the house had reached their life expectancy (25 yrs or so...) so it was more of a "bonus" for something they had to do anyway. The tax breaks certainly didn't *encourage* them to do it.

    It's a freaking bandaid on a deep flesh wound. I can't wait til we get gangrene and people wonder why.