Most weeks, Last Week Tonight provides its audience with a thorough report on a problem that affects us all, from the state of the world’s oceans to the appalling lack of delicious new breakfast cereals. This week, however, the show’s appeal was a little more selective, focusing instead on PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, a dubious way of financing energy-efficient and environmentally friendly home improvements that can easily send homeowners into dire financial straits. In one sense, this is classic Last Week Tonight territory: A program ostensibly designed to benefit the public has instead been coopted by scammers and flimflam artists. In another sense, though, this is an odd story for John Oliver to be telling his audience, as he explained in a lengthy disclaimer:
If you’re under the age of 35, let me quickly clear up your confusion here: A “homeowner” is a person who owns their home. They don’t rent it—the house belongs to them. Like your parents! You know how your parents live in a house, but they don’t have a landlord, and they don’t have to sign a lease and they don’t pay a security deposit? It’s like that. It’s their house! Don’t worry, though, that will never be you. You’re not allowed to do that. America decided a few years back that if you were born after 1985, you don’t get to own a house. You do get to rent apartments for the rest of your life, though, as you gradually pay off the student loan debts from your liberal arts degree. That’s the thing that you get to do. So if you’re under 35, you can actually skip this story. Don’t even worry about it! Go fight with a 15-year-old on TikTok about the coolest way to part your hair. Your life is sad, and that’s okay!
For many people, this will undoubtedly be the least personally-relevant Last Week Tonight segment ever, and this is a show that devoted multiple episodes to creepy statues of Warren G. Harding and Jimmy Carter they bought from a failed wax museum. Still, if you or someone you know owns a home, or you’re interested in the decline and fall of the American empire for academic reasons, here’s the deal with PACE. There’s a George Clooney cameo, if that sweetens the deal:
The bottom line is that you should probably not use PACE to finance your home improvements, should you be fortunate enough to have a home to improve: As Oliver points out, there are many other ways to do this that don’t involve putting a lien on your property. You can easily remember to steer clear thanks to this handy mnemonic: If someone asked you to name an unjustly-neglected track from Young M.C.’s 1989 debut album Stone Cold Rhymin’, you wouldn’t choose “Pick up the Pace,” because (a) it sucks and (b) it already got way more attention than it deserved, including countless remixes (“Pick Up the Pace 1990,” “Pick Up the Pace (House Mix),” “Pick Up the Pace (Slamming Guitars Mix),” and on and on), a cassingle release, and a prime spot on the soundtrack of the poorly-received Steven Segal vehicle Marked For Death. By the exact same logic, if someone asks you to pick a way to finance your home improvements, you shouldn’t choose PACE. So whether you’re sharing your unsolicited opinions about deep cuts on a rap album from more than three decades ago or getting pressured by a contractor into installing a bunch of environmentally-friendly home improvements you can’t afford, the solution is the same: Slam the biggest, loudest boom box you own down on the counter like Radio Raheem, hit play on “Non Stop,” and refuse to say another word. No one can resist a Wes Montgomery sample!
Please note that if you do not own a home, you are still free to end any and all conversations, friendships, and marriages by playing Young M.C.’s “Non Stop” at high volume. You just can’t use PACE to finance it.