Dollars for dishwashers

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Are you ready for Round Two of cash-for-clunkers?

Fresh from the success of its rebate program for car trade-ins, the U.S. government is gearing up for a similar effort covering old appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioners.

The automotive version of cash-for-clunkers proved to be extremely popular, reportedly generating sales of about 700,000 new cars as consumers scooped up the $4,500 rebate the government was offering them to trade in their gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The application of the clunkers concept to appliances initially will be a much smaller program than the automotive initiative, which was financed by more than $2 billion in federal funds.

Thus far, about $300 million in federal stimulus funds have been earmarked to provide rebates to consumers who junk their energy-hogging appliances for new energy-efficient models, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Rebates are not expected to exceed more than $200 per appliance.

However, if the appliance effort proves as popular as the auto clunker bonanza, it is likely that funding will be increased and the program extended.

The Department of Energy, which oversees the program, wants states to focus on 10 categories of appliances carrying the federal Energy Star seal of approval for efficiency, including washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, tankless gas water heaters, refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners.

According to the Journal, the program allows each state to pick qualifying models and tailor rebate amounts. Manufacturers and retailers have indicated a reluctance to ramp up appliance production and inventories until it is clear which models qualify.

If the “dollars for dishwashers” program takes off, we can envision the clunkers concept being applied to other sectors in need of a trade-in rebate. To wit:

Pennies for Presents:

Don’t know what to do with that tie-rack you got for Father’s Day last year, or the hideous yellow sweater you found under the Christmas tree? Uncle Sam wants to help you out!

Cash for Congressmen:

Tired of seeing the same old hack schmoozing with lobbyists while he pretends to represent you? Trade him in!

Benjamins for Bonus Babies:

Is your investment advisor telling you he doesn’t know how that crater developed in what used to be your 401k? Did your bank go belly up? Turn these turkeys in and get a brand new mattress!

Miracles for Mistakes:

Don’t have any use for those Mets season tickets you bought? Your government will help you convert them into a lifetime supply of bowling shoes!

Get busy, folks. Let’s put those tax dollars to work for us.

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