Never fear, ladies and gentlemen. The government is here to help.

Chills went down my spine as I wrote that. There’s not really much that I fear more than the government’s help.

But I don’t have to worry about it yet, actually. They’re not going to help until February.

That’s when the “Great Appliance Swap Out” begins. It’s a federal program being administered by New York State that allows people to get up to $500 in rebates for trading in their old washer, dishwasher, freezer and refrigerator for a newer energy efficient model.

The program is using as much as $17 million in stimulus dollars to encourage you to make the move.

You’ll have nine days in February to trade in the fridge and get $75 … or trade in the freezer or washing machine for $50. Or trade in the dishwasher, but only if you’re also trading in something else. Oh and then there’s extra money available if you recycle your old appliance. And possibly a little more if you pledge your undying love to Herbert Hoover or something. I mean, really, must the government make everything so confusing?

I’ll give them this, though. At least they know it’s confusing. And to help put your mind at ease, they’ve secured a website – – to answer your questions. Of course, if you actually go to the website, you’re greeted with, “An online application and detailed eligibility rules will be available on this page in the near future, so please check back with us again!”

So to sum this up, if you wait three months to buy an appliance and then do so in the proper nine day period and fill out forms in triplicate proving that you bought an Energy Star rated appliance, the government will borrow money from China (or your grandchildren) to help you with that purchase. Yeah. Makes perfect sense to me.

Not to mention, have you ever wondered how something gets the Energy Star label? I have. So I looked into it.

There’s an Energy Star controversy. And the label might not mean much, according to the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, the government agency that created and maintains the Energy Star program.

If you go to an appliance store and look at two refrigerators side-by-side, one with the Energy Star label and one without it, look closely at the power consumption tags. It’s entirely possible that the one without the “government approved” label is actually more efficient.

And this is the government we’re trusting to help us?

Speaking of labels, sometimes they do make a difference.

Recent police blotter items caught a reader’s eye and that reader pointed them out to me.

In the same paper, there were listed two drug convictions. One man was found guilty of growing marijuana in his basement. The other of selling cocaine. One got two years in jail. The other got probation. Would it shock you if I told you that the cocaine dealer was the one with the probation? Would it still shock you if I said he shared a last name with a prominent politician?

I’m told that the man is actually of no relation to the politician, but sometimes a label helps, even if it is false identification.