Although I had left the area long before the World Trade Center was built, the New York Metropolitan area was my childhood home. As a result, 9/11 hit rather hard, and I followed the story closely with an almost morbid dedication to knowing all the facts I could glean. Thus the tenth anniversary brought back many memories. I lost no one in the calamity, and I don’t really know anyone who did. The daughter of a gal with whom I grew up and went to church as a kid was late for work that morning. Had her alarm clock gone off on time, I would have known someone who perished. The weekend left me with some impressions:
Let’s get this established: Our country is in a mess, and I don’t have to write a single paragraph as you already have several written in your head. There is no denying the mess, and I would be the last one to do so. I do think, however, that there is another side to the story to which we need to give at least a little thought.
Solyndra Scandal Ends Green Jobs Myth
"[W]e can see the positive impacts [of the stimulus] right here at Solyndra," Obama claimed when he spoke at the company's newly unveiled factory in May of last year. He was correct that the results of his stimulus would be on display at that factory. But he was wrong that those results would be positive. Little more than a year later, the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to lay off more than 1,000 employees.
The Solyndra factory where Obama spoke was built after the company received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department as part of the stimulus's green jobs push. "Through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations," Obama noted. "This new factory is the result of those loans."
But "everyone knew that the plant wouldn’t work," according to a former Solyndra employee. So why was the President so sure of the plant’s success when he spoke there? What's more, the company was built on "a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars," according to an industry analyst. That would normally be a red flag for investors. So why did the President claim that "the true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra"?
The answer to both of those questions: The government's decisions are driven by politics and ideology and are divorced from economic reality. Want proof? Take a look at a January 31 e-mail between Office of Management and Budget staff regarding "Solyndra optics" -- that is, how the issue looks in the public's eyes. "If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse later than they would be today," they wrote, adding:
In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up, whereas a default today could be put in the context of (and perhaps even get some credit for) fiscal discipline / good government because the Administration would be limiting further taxpayer exposure letting bad projects go, and could make public steps it is taking to learn lessons and improve / limit future lending.
In other words, in January the Administration was essentially letting the 2012 campaign dictate decisions on the federal government's financial involvement with Solyndra. They were not responding to normal profit-and-loss signals, as they should. Had Energy Department bureaucrats been investing their own money, they might have been more careful. But it was others' money -- taxpayers' money -- at stake. Self-interested investors, who naturally weed out bad investments, were wholly absent. The result: Taxpayers are likely to lose up to $535 million, while the people who made the decision to throw money at Solyndra have, so far, been completely insulated from reprisal.
Much attention has been paid to accusations of cronyism in the Energy Department, given that a major Solyndra investor is also a big Obama donor. But the fundamental lesson of the Solyndra scandal is not that money buys political favors. That now goes without saying. The real takeaway is that government intervention in the economy is a fool’s errand, as Heritage’s Nicolas Loris notes:
Solyndra exemplifies the government’s abysmal track record of picking winners and losers in the marketplace, and the solar company is not the only example of energy stimulus struggles. With a number of targeted energy tax credits set to expire at the end of this year or next, industry groups are lobbying hard for extensions. Especially given the U.S. fiscal situation, this is a time to end all energy subsidies—not to extend wasteful, market-distorting policies. When the government decides to favor a technology with subsidies, it’s a good bet that subsidy 'winner' is a loser in the marketplace.
Indeed, at least four other companies to receive money from Obama's stimulus package have gone bankrupt, Fox News reports.
Even where companies do create jobs, they do so at such exorbitant cost that the effort cannot reasonably be considered a success. To date, The Washington Post reports, the Energy Department loan guarantee program from which Solyndra benefitted has created one new permanent job for every $5.5 million spent. Lend that kind of money to a private business in an industry that doesn’t rely on taxpayer support, and it will put hundreds if not thousands to work.
Government subsidies are invitations for political favoritism, of course. But more importantly, as engines of job creation, they simply don't work (just ask Spain). Sure, the Administration's "green jobs" program has led to allegations of corruption. But it has also failed even in its foremost task of creating jobs for an economy with a chronic unemployment problem. Columnist Jim Pethokoukis writes, "Solyndra is the logical endpoint of Obamanomics." Unfortunately, the American people are paying the price for getting us there.
The election of 2008 was a brilliant coup by some remarkably clever political animals who got an unknown and nondescript Senator following in the footsteps of Carol Mosely Braun very quickly in the lead in a Presidential Primary race the Clinton folks thought they had locked up. America was inundated with Hope and Change and the same press that would go without sleep digging up dirt on President Bush and even fake it? They ignored all the questionable aspects of Barack Obama's past. Somehow the man was magically able to pass off connections to organized crime, the Communist Party, a terrorist, a blatant anti-American racist and a record of schooling that still seems to be primarily smoke and mirrors. We still have not seen a birth certificate that was not forged and have to wonder why so many people just ran to vote for Obama? I think I know. I believe that much of the white population felt as if we elected a (half-black, half white) man with dark skin into the Presidency, it would be the beginning of the post-racial America. Yeah, right! Obama's cronies beat the racist drum daily.
In 2010 the public's vote was a rejection of Obama's policies and the two recent special elections both went Republican. If Americans are smart, they'll see that Obamacare is the barnfull of straw that would break the US camel's back and only by tossing the entire bunch out of office will we put a stop to it! Only by changing leadership will we be jobs-friendly and energy-friendly again.
9/11 was a reminder that this is a dangerous world and we need a President who is aware of and respects the history of our nation. We need a President who loves and wants to protect and defend the Constitution, not erode it. We need one who will actually protect the borders and enforce Federal Laws. We need a President who will not appoint completely unqualified loonbats like Kagan to the Supreme Court.
We also need legislators with backbone who will not just sound like they mean business when campaigning, but will also follow through with action once they get to Washington. We need to toss out old Beltway Boys even if they carry the "R" around. Dick Lugar is part of the problem, not the solution. Indiana should have a genuine conservative Senator like Richard Mourdock. We would be out of our minds with joy if the reprehensible Pete Visclosky could be defeated. He gets all the automatic votes from Gary districts where they sometimes vote 100% Democrat even if no one is there as well as the mostly liberal Porter County rubber stamp. He has kept himself out of court, wish we could get him out of office.
Photo by Thomas Semesky. Sadly, a familiar sight in Gary, Indiana = buildings crumbling into dust.
9/11 was terrible and tragic. The Statist takeover of America is also both terrible and tragic. Fortunately you can vote and put an end to it. "Let's Roll" now means lets get our butts out of our chairs and into the voting booth in the primaries and in the 2012 elections. No excuses!!! VOTE!
Sunday follow-up. BARACK OBAMA, STILL A PRODUCT OF THE CHICAGO MACHINE:
Even the Chicago News media can see what is going on. Barack Obama has been tossing hundreds of millions of dollars at supporters who contributed to his campaign. He is single-handedly remaking the definition of "stimulus" into "the process of screwing the American taxpayer and enriching a few cronies while making a pretense of helping the economy and actually accomplishing the exact reverse." If we have any more "stimulus" bills this depression could begin to rival the one we experienced in the 1930's.
Obama's Solyndra scandal reeks of the Chicago Way
Those of us from Chicago know exactly what the Solyndra scandal smells like. And It doesn't smell fresh and green.
The Solyndra scandal cost at least a half-billion public dollars. It is plaguing President Barack Obama. And it's being billed as a Washington story.
But back in Obama's political hometown, those of us familiar with the Chicago Way can see something else in Solyndra — something that the Washington crowd calls "optics." In fact, it's not just a Washington saga — it has all the elements of a Chicago City Hall story, except with more zeros.
The FBI is investigating what happened with Solyndra, a solar panel company that got a $535 million government-backed loan with the help of the Obama White House over the objections of federal budget analysts.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden got a nice photo op. They got to make speeches about being "green." But then Solyndra went bankrupt. Americans lost jobs. Taxpayers got stuck with the bill. And members of Congress are now in high dudgeon and making speeches.
Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie.
So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it's going to smell worse.
Or, did you really believe it when the White House mouthpieces — who are also Chicago City Hall mouthpieces — promised they were bringing a new kind of politics to Washington?
This is not a new kind of politics. It's the old kind. The Chicago kind.
And now the Tribune Washington Bureau has reported that the U.S. Department of Energy employee who helped monitor the Solyndra loan guarantee was one of Obama's top fundraisers.
Fundraising? Contracts? Imagine that.
Steve Spinner was the Obama administration official in charge of handing out billions and billions of tax dollars to "green" energy deals. According to the Tribune story, Spinner the other day invited Obama's national political finance committee to a meeting in Chicago.
The name of the Obama fundraising initiative?
"Technology for Obama."
The idea of the Obama fundraisers getting together, talking "green," and perhaps offering taxpayer loan guarantees to insider businesses in the interest of helping the environment — it all seems rather fresh.
Like a mountain meadow.
Until you realize it's the same old politics, the same kind practiced in Washington and Chicago and anywhere else where appetites are satisfied by politicians. When the government picks winners and losers, who's the loser? Just look in the mirror, hold that thought, and tell me later.
Republicans are hoping to hang this around Obama's political neck, and they're doing a good job of it now because his approval ratings are low and the jobless numbers are abysmal and the Democrats are in full killer-rabbit panic. But there have been Republican national scandals, too, and they're always ridiculously and depressingly similar.
At least in Illinois our scandals are quite ecumenical, with Republicans eager to help Democrats steal whatever they can grab.
In Solyndra, like any proper City Hall political scandal, there are similar archetypes.
There are the guys who count. The guys who bring the cash. They count because they do the counting. They have leverage. They're always there at the fundraisers. And so they're the ones who are allowed to gorge at the public trough.
The bureaucrats are the fulcrum so the guys with the leverage can lift great weight without too much effort. And while they might whine privately among themselves, they don't hold news conferences to blow the whistle.
They keep their mouths shut until the deal is done. If anyone gets caught and the problem becomes public, at least they've got email to cover their behinds. And they're doing a good job covering.
But there's one group that doesn't get their behinds covered.
Instead, their behinds are right out there, suspended foolishly, and waiting to get kicked.
We're the taxpayers — in Illinois we call ourselves chumbolones because we're the ones who stupidly end up covering all the losses. As in the Solyndra mess.
It's the Chicago Way, but instead of a paving or trucking contract, it's a "green" solar panel contract. The company received a $535 million loan.
"The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad," according to a Jan. 31 email from an Office of Management and Budget staffer printed in the Washington Post. "If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse later than they would be today. … In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."
I love the use of "optics." It's one of those bloodless words finding favor these days.
"Optics" suggests bureaucrats might think in terms of symbolism, political hieroglyphs, in grand vistas, rather than in hard numbers, like the $535,000,000 that went poof.
But it's not their money, is it? It's ours.
So this is not about Washington optics after all. The Solyndra scandal is about the Washington smell of things.
Those of us from Chicago know exactly what it smells like. And It doesn't smell fresh and green.