So what part of the economic stimulus plan did House Minority Leader John Boehner single out on PBS’s Newshour:

And, if you look at the over $500 billion worth of spending, a lot of it’s going to fix up federal buildings, and — and $6 billion to community action programs to do weatherization programs.

It’s just more of the same kind of wasteful spending that we have seen in the past. I was really — I was shocked.

The Republicans dumped more than $100 billion down the black hole of Iraqi reconstruction, and Bush flushed down the toilet who knows how many tens of billions of dollars of the bailout bill. But Boehner is shocked that Democrats want to spend a few billion dollars to:

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  1. retrofit federal buildings to make them more energy-efficient, and
  2. weatherize the home of poor people.

I actually helped oversee both of those programs when I was at the Department of Energy (DOE) in the mid-1990s. The conservatives hated them then, too. What is so galling about the GOP’s ongoing efforts to cut these programs is that not only are they job creators — they are both deficit reducers:

  1. The Federal Energy Management Program invests in high-payback retrofits of federal buildings that lower the government’s energy bill — a bill which itself is paid for by taxpayers. The federal government is the single biggest user of energy in the country.
  2. The weatherization program lowers the energy bill of low-income households. Through the multi-billion-dollar Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), taxpayers help poor people pay their energy bills, so they don’t have to make tough choices between food, healthcare, and keeping their families warm during the winter.

The website of Bush’s DOE explains just how successful the weatherization program has been at helping more than 5.6 million low-income families in the past 30 years, while creating jobs in low-income communities:

By reducing the energy bills of low-income families instead of offering aid, weatherization reduces dependency and liberates these funds for spending on more pressing family issues. On average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32% and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices. This spending, in turn, spurs low-income communities toward job growth and economic development.

But Boehner says “Bah, Humbug!” Just like Bush did, I might add, when he proposed last year to zero out the entire weatherization program (see “Bush, the uncompassionate, anti-technology President“). As Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, noted at the time:

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The weatherization assistance program increases the energy efficiency of dwellings occupied by low-income Americans, thus directly reducing their energy costs. This is important, as energy costs account for about 13 percent of the household budgets of low-income families, compared to 3.5 percent or less for all other Americans. With energy costs rising significantly, and an economy poised on recession, the weatherization program is more needed than ever, and the funds already appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2008 will pay for upgrades to 85,000 low-income dwellings. “It’s hard to fathom why this program is being terminated by the DOE now — a lot of households need help reducing their energy bills, and the work of insulating their homes creates residential construction jobs that are greatly needed right now, too.”

After this attempted termination, DOE deleted from its website a line describing the weatherization program as “this country’s longest running, and perhaps most successful energy efficiency program” (see Bodman as Orwell: DOE erases “most successful” weatherization program from website — note I don’t see the link to the cached original website, but that link still has the screen grab).

Boehner’s Newshour quote shows just how out of touch conservative leaders are on energy efficiency. Of all the things that he could have criticized in the bailout bill, he picked the two most no-brainer programs in it, the save energy, cut pollution, reduce the deficit, help poor people, and of course create jobs.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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