In the very near term, the way we can generate the most jobs, we believe, is through home retrofits. We have 17 percent of our construction workers who are out of work today, and there's about 200,000 home retrofits done per year in the United States. But over the course of the next 20 years, we probably ought to be doing (inaudible) each year, these retrofits, or saving the energy that's wasted, up to 40 percent in 100 million American homes. And I haven't begun to talk about our schools or our small businesses.
Were we to develop a program to do that, we could create hundreds of thousands, even a million jobs in a year, in a permanent new industry -- high-wage jobs, that are not going to be outsourced, and where the savings from doing this work, stay in the pockets of America's consumers.
I'll go one step further: A lot of people are stuck in mortgages they don't want to be stuck in any more because they can't sell their homes, and a lot of people can't sell their homes because they can't afford to fix them up. I'm not talking about house-flippers, I'm talking about people who bought a place thinking "oh, we'll get to that someday" and then a layoff, or something, kablooied their plans. So now they're barely paying the mortgage with nothing left over to make improvements that would help out the value of their homes on the market.
I know I wouldn't mind some general fix-up money. We replaced our windows not long after we bought the place but our building was built in the early 1900s and in order: the bathroom should be killed with fire and started again, the kitchen is tiny and kind of pointless, the plaster is cracked all over the living room, I would dearly love to rip off every bit of paint-covered woodwork and replace it with nice stained oak. I would cheerily employ American labor and patronize American stores to purchase materials to do these jobs.
Plus honestly, I know more painters, drywallers and roofers who are out of work right now than members of any other profession (except journalism, but: oversampling). I know it's socialism and all, but if we're going to shovel money at people anyway, dammit: fix my damn house, give my damn friends work, and help me stimulate the economy of OldHouseStuff.net and my local hardware store.