What One Stimulus Buck Could Do
Mazria has vetted his plan with bankers at Wells Fargo, Bankers Trust, and Bank of the West, all of whom are interested in providing loans; while in Washington, he also met with the Teamsters, who are eager to get in on the green economy. The city of Des Moines, whose mayor, Frank Cownie, helped Mazria develop and pitch his proposal to state and federal leaders, has been fully on board. Cincinnati has expressed interest, too. Ditto Atlanta, Dubuque, Santa Barbara, Albuquerque, Fort Wayne. North Little Rock, population 61,000, is “absolutely” planning to file a 14x application, according to Mayor Hays.
The Arkansas contingent, in fact, is already devising new twists on the concept. Green business pioneer Martha Jane Murray, an architect and shoe factory co-owner who set up free home energy audits and energy-efficiency loans for her employees, is now considering ways to incorporate mortgage-rate paydowns into her program. By offering cheaper home loans as an employee benefit—contingent on an energy retrofit—a company could effectively give workers a pay raise that encourages them to stay put. Mayor Hays suggests that cities might even use such incentives to, say, entice police officers to live in what he calls “challenged” areas of town. “It’s a simple idea,” he notes, “but it certainly seems to hold promise for some profound opportunities.”
DOE officials seemed “real excited” about 14x, Mazria says, and will likely look favorably upon local variations of his plan as the stimulus money begins to flow in earnest in late June. (“Yes, we’re excited,” confirms Claire Johnson, the department’s efficiency advisor for the stimulus package, “but we’re excited by a lot of things. The department is always interested in innovative ways to increase energy efficiency.”)
Phase 2 of the plan would elevate the concept to the federal level. Mazria envisions dipping into the $1.2 trillion pot the Federal Reserve has set aside to buy up debt and toxic securities and bolster Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A mere $60 billion of that money, Mazria says, would enable the federal government to tie mortgage-rate paydowns to energy efficiency on a grand scale, leading to $572 billion in construction spending, 9 million jobs, and $40 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Best of all, the whole thing will pay for itself: Within a year, Mazria calculates, that $60 billion will have brought in a whopping $120 billion in federal taxes. “To turn the country around,” says the architect, “you need to turn the building sector around. And you have an opportunity to transform it as you’re bringing it back.”
Michael Mechanic is a senior editor at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.
Just think if the American Political Leadership did something right for once…
What a concept!