The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Solyndra as Symbol and Metaphor

Posted on | September 16, 2011 | 27 Comments

“Where are you going to find a nickel’s worth of business sense in an administration where there’s no private-sector experience? And caution is for lesser mortals, not The One and his chosen crew.”
Glenn Reynolds, “SolarGate Update”

The half-billion deficit dollars pissed away on a bankrupt boondoggle of “green jobs” may become the scandal that ultimately dooms the Obama administration. We could belabor the obvious fact that Democrats cut a sweetheart deal with a big donor to make taxpayers fund an “innovative” private company that couldn’t make it in the free market, but instead let’s consider something even more shocking: Democrats really believed in this phony-baloney stuff!

Democrats were eager to include the DOE loan guarantee programme as part of the stimulus bill in part because they believed it was, in fact, the optimal type of stimulus.

That’s the Economist arguing with the Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle about the Solyndra scandal, and the anonymous Economist writer provides this chart showing administration officials’ calculation of the “stimulus” value of these allegedly innovative policies: 

Details of the Economist/McArdle dispute are irrelevant to the point I wish to make: Once you begin assigning Keynesian “output multiplier” values to federal spending proposals – and making such arbitrary speculations the basis of decision-making – you have in fact ventured into the kind of planned-economy error that sank the Soviet empire.

A free-market economy may be wasteful in some sense, and the outcomes resulting from unsupervised human action may be harmful in some sense, but when a government’s planned-economy policy tries to pick winners and losers — and gosh, Solyndra was a world-class loser, wasn’t it? — the waste and harm are inevitably more painful, simply because they are the result of a conscious decision made by responsible agents acting in the name of the nation.

The Ukrainian terror famine and the Chernobyl disaster were outcomes of Soviet policy (the first deliberate, the second accidental) undertaken on behalf of the workers’ socialist state, so that those who suffered were in effect chosen victims of “The People,” unwilling martyrs for the struggle of the worldwide proletariat. In America, by contrast, we are accustomed to muckraking journalists and liberal crusaders who chastise the nation on behalf of victims of government neglect:

  • Here, say the liberals, is the family bankrupted by medical expenses. If only government would provide universal health insurance, the mother of these children might not have died of cancer, their father would not have wiped out his savings, and they would not have lost their home.
  • Here, say the liberals, are the Gulf Coast residents who lost their jobs because of an oil spill. If only government would enact stricter regulation on off-shore drilling, commercial fishermen and other businesses and employees dependent on the fishing industry would not have lost their livelihoods.
  • Here, say the liberals, is the teenage transvestite murdered by hateful schoolmates. If only government would pass civil-rights protections for gays and implement “tolerence” policies in schools, such horrific tragedies could be averted.

Grant that all of these liberal arguments have some merit. Stipulate that U.S. policies vis-à-vis health care, environmental protection, and gay rights fall short of an optimum ideal. But those who are skeptical of greater government intervention see the choices involved in terms of trade-offs, so that a policy aimed toward achieving an ideal or alleviating a specific harm might — by the law of unintended consequences — create other harms. My libertarian friends are wont to think of unintended consequences strictly in terms of economic interventionism, but I could cite innumerable harms resulting from trying to pick winners and losers in the pursuit of non-economic social goals.

Years ago as a journalist in small-town Georgia, I became aware that some white teenagers were succumbing to a frighteningly merciless sort of racist mentality because school policies intended to suppress racial conflict were actually fomenting black-on-white gang violence. There is no need to relate the specifics of that situation here, but if anti-racist policies could beget racism – which is exactly what happened — I consider it entirely possible that “tolerance” policies aimed at protecting homosexuals could beget a new kind of homophobia, especially merciless because the young do not remember the bygone wrongs that these policies were intended to remedy. And, lest liberals think they can cure such a problem through politically-correct history lessons, I assure you on the basis of many years of direct observation that nothing so inspires contempt in the heart of a bully than pious lectures about the helpless victimhood of the despised Other.

Have we wandered far afield from a discussion of Solyndra? No. The relevance is quite direct: Intending to pave the way for “innovative” new sources of alternative energy, the Obama administration has almost certainly guaranteed that there will be no future “investments” of taxpayer dollars in projects like Solyndra.

In one of those predictable pendulum swings of Newtonian politics, a powerful backlash against “green energy” is now underway and gathering an irresistible momentum. The American people will not (and should not) be satisfied until some high government official is indicted on criminal charges and prosecuted to the full extent of the law in the Solyndra scandal. If Eric Holder tries to protect the guilty, Holder will be destroyed by public outrage when his complicity is discovered.

Were I in a position to advise Obama, I’d tell him to pick a scapegoat or two to throw under his bus, so as to spare himself a Watergate-sized obstruction-of-justice snowball. Better a couple of deputy undersecretaries or minor White House functionaires go to federal prison than to get yourself into one of those “what did he know and when did he know it” traps.

All the woes now descending on the Obama administration could have been averted, if any of them had been familiar with the works of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell.

Hell, I bet Barry Manilow could tell them how and why they went wrong. But it’s too late now, and the unintended consequences are piling up into a Himalyan mountain of failure we haven’t seen since Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Barry Manilow topped the charts with that song about the hottest spot north of Havana:






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Comments

  • Barry Manilow

    Where have you gone Ron Paul, our nation turns its lonely hearts to you.  Woo Woo Woo. 

  • Anonymous

    I wonder when we can replace “Gate” with some of these leftist scandals.

    I think we should use the word “Warming” wherever “Gate” is being thought of.

    “Solyndra-Warming”
    “Fast & Furious-Warming”

    Or howbout “Walker” from Gunwalker.  Or “Corn” from “ACORN”

    I’m just bored with Gating everything.

    Stacy: come up with a good replacement.

  • http://twitter.com/marriedrambler Andrew Patrick

    ” school policies intended to suppress racial conflict were actually fomenting black-on-white gang violence. ”

    How so? I mean, certainly the policies do little good, but how did they do the opposite?

  • Anonymous

    What is truly disturbing is how blinded they were to the math of this equation. An audit from  Price, Waterhouse, Cooper due to a SEC requirement found that Solyndra was in the red prompting them to drop their planned IPO launch in 2010.
    Their myopia is due to the idea that “green energy” is the “wave of the future”. They’ve repeated this nonsense so many times that they believe it. Green energy isn’t an energy policy it’s an environmental policy based on extremely dubious science. It’s viability is solely based on mandates, import protection and subsidies, if all of those green energy supports ended today, the green energy industry would collapse tomorrow. There is no economic basis for ending our reliance on carbon energy. While clean air improves quality of life, increasingly stringent standards based on increasing ability to detect insignificant traces in pursuit of impossibly pristine is insane. Destroying our economy and driving down living standards in the quest for perfection will ultimately damage the environment. The junk science knowingly used to advance extreme positions, the nonsense about freeing us from dastardly foreign suppliers is just scare tactics. The envirowackos increasing reliance on fabricated science and other dishonest arguments is destroying the environmental movement by sucking the oxygen out of discussions of genuine environmental and discrediting science in general and environmentalism in general. Surely I’m not the only person to conclude that assembling a group of PhDs doesn’t prove that you’ve created a hive of scum and villainy.

  • Anonymous

    The whole green energy scam is imploding due not just bad science but also the corruption inherent in allowing unprincipled, technically ignorant pols to channel massive funds to companies of their choosing (sorry GE, you deserve to lose out BIG ha ha ha)It’s just like back in Chicago, one of Blago’s stunts was taking kickbacks to award construction contracts for bike lanes and other “green” initiatives built with money jacked from Illinois taxpayers- I’m sure he could have cared less if there were bike lanes or not, all that ever perked his interest was the skim.But the solution is simple enough: ONLY the market should be deciding what companies survive, not Barack Obama (nor anybody else)- then we don’t have these kind of problems!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    It’s not easy to burn through half a billion bucks in just over a year.  Figuring our money paid all the salaries for the 1100 employees, averaging $100K each including bennies (because why scrimp when Uncle Hussein has all that shovel-ready cash?), that’s still only about a quarter of the funds.

    Follow the money.  This will get beri-beri interesting.

  • Anonymous

    Much of the money was spent constructing and equipping the facility. When this first broke when they were showing the clips of Obama touting the 3000 jobs this was creating I at first wondered how a project creating 3000 jobs and then in failing only lost 1100. This is a good example of the deception used in calculating “jobs created” by the government. Even if 3000 different individuals were actually hired specifically for this project and one takes the numbers at face value there certainly wasn’t 3000 jobs created at one time.

  • Anonymous

    So far we have what, 3 greens gone belly up, with the tax payer left holding the bag.  I heard there’s another greenie w/ a $344M loan, 80% guaranteed by the tax payer.  It’s financial helath is unknown.

    To make things either better, DOE is racing to finalize loans for another 14 greenies.  They have until sept 30 or the window closes.  Dims are by nature crooks.   They can’t help it!

  • Anonymous

    I think Loan Walker would cover most of the greenie scandals coming to light.

  • http://www.redstateeclectic.typepad.com AngelaTC

    Stacy, Stacy. Stacy – you seriously think this is the end of the boondoggle?  Mark my words – the answer is to declare that energy devopment is a matter of national security, and roll these programs into the DOD bidget, meaning that no Republican will ever again question the wisdom of such follies.

  • Anonymous

    Well, we can start with the inability to enforce discipline: Discipline a young Official Victim Group member, and the first words out of their mouth will be “RAAAAACISM!” followed by “LAWSUIT!”. Schools don’t need the hassle, so they stop trying.

    Unfortunately, standards that don’t apply to everyone can’t be applied to anyone. (See the CRA for another example). 

  • Anonymous

    I like that one!

  • Anonymous

    Spot on comments! 

    Whatever is the best, most efficient and competitive, energy source – given existing technological conditions - is therefore the “greenest” energy source. Subsidizing faux innovations is economically, and thus environmentally, destructive.    

    That’s why I’m only half-joking when I say that environmentalism is bad for the environment.

  • Anonymous

    There are a handful of “hard greens” who support nuclear power as the least polluting form of power, but unfortunately they’re far outnumbered by the Luddites and watermelons.

  • Anonymous

    When you’re half-joking, you are way more than half right.

  • Anonymous

    Nuclear is unfortunately way more expensive than carbon at least from 0 to start-up. Then there is still the problem with spent fuel, I recommend we make Harry Reid a storage facility.

  • kansas

    Here, say the liberals, is the family bankrupted by medical expenses. If only government would provide universal health insurance, the mother of these children might not have died of cancer, their father would not have wiped out his savings, and they would not have lost their home.

    The help that family.

    Here, say the liberals, are the Gulf Coast residents who lost their jobs because of an oil spill. If only government would enact stricter regulation on off-shore drilling, commercial fishermen and other businesses and employees dependent on the fishing industry would not have lost their livelihoods.

    Then help those who have lost their jobs.

    Here, say the liberals, is the teenage transvestite murdered by hateful schoolmates. If only government would pass civil-rights protections for gays and implement “tolerence” policies in schools, such horrific tragedies could be averted

    Then prosecute those who have committed crimes.

    Simple. Cheap. Effective. But won’t bankrupt the country which would disappointe Obama and his commie pals.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dianna.deeley Dianna Deeley

    It was a mystery to me how this could possibly work – people in Fremont were happy to have the jobs, but Solyndra, from the initial filing for an IPO, looked shaky as all get-out. You can see the buildings from I-880, and it always made me shake my head when we drove by.

  • Anonymous

    Spent fuel rods can be reprocessed, and if you look at the human cost in terms of the full cycle from fuel extraction to waste disposal, nuclear comes out WAY ahead. In fact, nuclear physicist Petr Beckmann did a book on the subject,  The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear.  Out of print, but used copies aren’t hard to find.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got no problem with nuclear power but I believe I’m correct that it’s more expensive than carbon, certainly the construction costs are. Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t we have policies that prevent us from using plants that reprocess fuel because that process also creates weapons grade fuel. That we have “persuaded” other countries not to use these types of power plants and are “leading” by example in forgoing this most efficient method of dealing with nuclear waste? At any rate even if some greens support nuclear power, the time it takes to go from approval to powering up my toaster is measured in decades not years.

    In any case I stand by my recommendation as to where to store at least one spent fuel rod.

  • Anonymous

    The SEC required an independent audit prior to approval of the IPO launch. Price Waterhouse, Cooper did the audit and found that Solyndra was in the red in several categories including cash flow and debt. This was in 2010. I don’t know if the SEC denied the proposal or Solyndra pulled back but do remember hearing on the news about canceling the IPO launch but do not recall hearing the SEC mentioned at that time.

  • Anonymous

    Never let a crisis go to waste.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    I seriously doubt they could have spent $400 million on the facility if all the toilets were solid gold.

    Obama’s “3000 jobs” used the typical figuring (even before he brought Million Man Math™ to “jobs created or saved”) of two “ripple effect” jobs for every one actually involved in a new factory.  It’s not a bad rule of thumb, but it takes a couple of years before those other jobs really take hold.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously the 3000 jobs is nonsense even if every single construction worker was hired for that project. But however many construction workers were used came and sometimes returned in phases and were all undoubtedly union. That means all of the skilled trades make in the neighborhood of $60 bucks an hour including bennies. And all them fancy robots ain’t cheap nor are the experts who install them. They probably hired the bad engineers from day one and had them engineering from day one in offsite offices, bet them offices weren’t pup tents either. Of course they needed computers and coffee makers didn’t they? Naturally the company officers started drawing “reasonable” salaries. Bet the they didn’t buy the office furniture at Costco or Staples. A first class “cutting edge” manufacturing concern can’t have potential customers sitting on folding chairs can they? This could go on and on but never underestimate what things cost when the person picking the drapes isn’t paying the bill.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting observation.  That’s probably exactly what happened.  Oblunder was given this enourmous stash (Porkulus) and decided he could really pump the green industry.  Without criticism.  There was a crisis underway.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    It’s a win, win situation for the Leftists: they get to ‘invest’ money in their beloved green projects and, if they work out [not in Reality, but ideologically] it’s a win and they advance Corporatism [ie: Fascism], but if not, they advance Corporatism.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    I wouldn’t put it past the rat bastards.