It’s Friday, October 14th, 2011….and here’s the Gouge!
First up, picking up where she left off, the sorely-missed wisdom and insight of the WSJ‘s Kimberly Strassel, back from maternity leave:
The GOP’s Solyndra Problem
Republicans have their own green baggage.
On Friday Rick Perry delivers his first major policy address, unveiling an aggressive energy and jobs plan. It will no doubt be good. It will no doubt address serious problems. It will no doubt be ignored.
That’s because, unfortunately for Mr. Perry, drilling isn’t the energy topic du jour. The buzz is the bankrupt Solyndra, which is why the only energy question that came to Mr. Perry at Tuesday’s New Hampshire debate was this: How, exactly, is his state’s vaunted “Emerging Technology Fund”—which has dumped some 200 million taxpayer dollars into private companies—any different from Obama programs that subsidized the likes of Solyndra?
It isn’t, of course, and that’s a problem for Mr. Perry. The political merit of Solyndra is that it perfectly illustrates the failed Obama economic mentality—that politicians should allocate capital, that government creates industries. Nothing should be further from a free-market mentality, and Solyndra ought to be providing Republicans a potent contrast with the president. Instead, candidates like Mr. Perry and Mitt Romney are dragging green baggage.
Congressional Republicans are now investigating the solar panels out of Solyndra, and rightly so. But no one should forget it was Republicans who in 2005 created the loan program that Mr. Obama would later expropriate to funnel stimulus dollars to his green boondoggles. This was the height of the Bush-era spending craze, when the GOP had come to see green energy as a slick way to funnel yet more pork (ethanol, nuclear, wood chips) to their states. As a side benefit, it offered cover against charges that Republicans were stooges of Big Oil.
Where the handouts really got rolling was at the state level. It used to be that Republican governors competed for business by lowering taxes and regulations.Then some genius worked out that it was easier to flat-out bribe companies to relocate by offering cold, hard taxpayer cash. And with green energy all the rage, a lot of state tax dollars started flowing to Solyndra-like ventures.
Mr. Perry did all this on a grand scale, convincing his legislature to create two investment funds, one being the Emerging Technology Fund, which has acted as state venture capitalist to more than a hundred firms, including green companies. In fairness, he wasn’t alone. Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal—conservatives all—have happily staked their taxpayers’ dollars on green bets.
But it’s Mr. Perry who is running for president, and who came out of the primary gates touting his funds as a centerpiece of Texas’s job-creation story. As Solyndra has escalated, the Obama political liabilities have begun to attach to the Texan. The press is churning out exposés about how many jobs the Texas grants actually produced, or how many recipients had donated to Mr. Perry. His rivals, notably Michele Bachmann, have directly called the funds Mr. Perry’s “Solyndra.”
Mr. Perry’s response has been to say that “the federal government shouldn’t be involved in that kind of investment, period,” but that it is “fine for states” to pick winners and losers in the economy. All of which sounds a bit like a certain governor attempting to explain away RomneyCare.
Speaking of Mr. Romney, he’s taken his own shots at Solyndra, and his 59-point economic plan warns that government “should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches.” The former governor seems to be hoping that the press won’t notice a day in early 2003 when he used a solar company as the backdrop to announce that his state was shifting millions to a new Green Energy Fund (still in existence) that would provide venture capital and loans to renewable companies.
True, the Massachusetts fund wasn’t run out of the governor’s office, and the amounts were a smidgen of Mr. Obama’s green stimulus. Bets are Team Obama won’t make that distinction when highlighting Mr. Romney’s prior support for state-sponsored venture capital for solar.
Past mistakes aside, why aren’t candidates using this moment to disavow green slush? Congressional Republicans—the tea party at their backs, Solyndra in their sights—are themselves beginning to envision the upside of abandoning green pork.
Yet Mr. Perry sticks to his flawed federalism argument. And the Romney jobs plan insists “government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry,” although Romney spokesman Ryan Williams tells me his candidate is focused on “basic research through programs that ensure long-term, apolitical funding for a wide variety of early stage technologies,” and that he “opposes President Obama’s efforts to play venture capitalist.”
The problem is that there are no apolitical subsidies. The economics of political venture capital are bad, but the politics are worse. For Republicans in particular, the green subsidy road leads only to scandals, job-number embarrassments, poor excuses, and a missed opportunity to draw distinctions with big-government liberals.
At Tuesday night’s debate, Mr. Romney told Herman Cain that “simple answers are . . . often inadequate.” But when it comes to green subsidies, Mr. Cain’s simplicity is to die for.Government simply “should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, because most of the time they pick the losers,” said Mr. Cain.Now there’s a presidential energy philosophy for the ages.
Since we’re on the subject of losers, the WSJ asks:
What’s Occupying Wall Street?
The protestors have a point, if not the right target.
In the matter of Occupy Wall Street, the allegedly anticapitalist movement that’s been camped out in lower Manhattan for the past few weeks and has inspired copycat protests from Boston to Los Angeles, we have some sympathy. Really? Well, yeah.
OK, not for the half-naked demonstrators, the ranting anti-Semites, Kanye West or anyone else who has helped make Occupy Wall Street a target for easy ridicule. But to the extent that the mainly young demonstrators have a valid complaint, it’s that they are trying to bust their way into an economy where there is one job for every five job-seekers, and where youth unemployment runs north of 18%. That is a cause for frustration, if not outrage.
The question is, outrage at whom? On Wednesday, Occupy Wall Street marched on J.P. Morgan Chase’s headquarters, after having protested outside CEO Jamie Dimon’s home the previous day. That’s odd, seeing that J.P. Morgan didn’t take on excessive mortgage risk and didn’t need (although it was forced to take) TARP money. The demonstrators also picketed the home of hedge fund mogul John Paulson, who made much of his recent fortune betting against the housing bubble, not helping to inflate it.
As for Wall Street itself, on Tuesday New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report predicting that the financial industry will likely lose 10,000 jobs by the end of next year. That’s on top of the 4,100 jobs lost since April, and the 22,000 since the beginning of 2008. Overall New York-area employment in finance and insurance has declined by 8.9% since late 2006. Even Goldman Sachs is planning layoffs.
So much for the cliche of Wall Street versus Main Street, the greedy 1% versus the hard-done-by 99%. That may be the core conviction of Occupy Wall Street and its fellow-travelers, and it may be a slogan in nearly every Democratic campaign next year, including President Obama’s. Whether or not that’s smart Democratic politics, the voters will decide.
Still, if anyone in the Occupy Wall Street movement wants an intellectually honest explanation for why they can’t find a job, they might start by considering what happens to an economy when the White House decides to make pinatas out of the financial-services industry (roughly 6%, or $828 billion, of U.S. GDP), the energy industry (about 7.5% of GDP, or $1 trillion), and millionaires and billionaires (who paid 20.4% of all federal income taxes in 2009). And don’t forget the Administration’s rhetorical volleys against individual companies like Anthem Blue Cross, AIG and Bank of America, or against Chrysler’s bondholders, or various other alleged malefactors of wealth.
Now move from words to actions. Want a shovel-ready job? The Administration has spent three years sitting on the Keystone XL pipeline project that promises to create 13,000 union jobs and 118,000 “spin-off” jobs.A State Department environmental review says the project poses no threat to the environment, but the Administration’s eco-friends are screaming lest it go ahead.
Then there are the jobs the Administration and its allies in Congress are actively killing. In June, American Electric Power announced it would have to shutter five coal-fired power plants, at a cost of 600 jobs, in order to comply with new EPA rules. Those same rules may soon force the utility to shutter another 25 plants. Bank of America’s decision last month to lay off 30,000 employees is a direct consequence of various Congressional edicts limiting how much the bank can charge merchants or how it can handle delinquent borrowers.
These visible crags of the Obama jobs iceberg are nothing next to the damage done below the waterline by the D.C. regulations factory, which last year added 81,405 pages of new rules to the Federal Register, bringing the total cost to the U.S. economy of regulatory compliance to an estimated $1.7 trillion a year.
Less easy to quantify, but no less harmful, are the long-term uncertainties employers face in trying to price in the costs of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, the potential expiration next year of the Bush tax cuts, the possible millionaire surcharge, the value of the dollar and so on. No wonder businesses are so reluctant to hire: When you don’t know how steep the trail ahead of you is, it’s usually better to travel light.
This probably won’t do much to persuade the Occupiers of Wall Street that their cause would be better served in Washington, D.C., where a sister sit-in this week seems to have fizzled. Then again, most of America’s jobless also won’t recognize their values or interests in the warmed-over anticapitalism being served up in lower Manhattan. Three years into the current Administration, most Americans are getting wise to the source of their economic woes. It’s a couple hundred miles south of Wall Street.
We have met the enemy….
….and he’s got enormous ears, a lousy golf swing and takes more vacations than Mike and Kris Ozburn!
Speaking of the enemy, Newsbusters.org‘s Clay Waters offers a profile in courage from the contemporary Left:
NYT’s Krugman Disappoints Leftist Legions: ‘Why I’m Not in Zuccotti Park’
“Some readers have been asking me to go make a speech at one of the OWS demonstrations. If you think about it, however, you’ll see why I can’t.
I’ve been granted the enormous privilege of expounding my own views twice a week in the world’s greatest newspaper. I try to make the best use of that privilege, doing all I can to get the truth across and also advocating for what I believe to be the right policies. There are, however, some restrictions that come with the privilege; one of them is not crossing the line between advocate and activist. And there are good reasons for drawing that line. Just in case you were wondering.”
Which brings to mind Clint Eastwood’s response to the sheriff in High Plains Drifter when asked if he wanted to know the names of the three men he’d just killed:
“Well….I’m not really interested.” And frankly Paul, neither are we! Krugman hides his Left-wing bias about as well as Dan Rather.
But while Krugman lacks even the courage of his convictions, as this next photo from Dan Feeney demonstrates, there’s at least one man in Zuccotti Park that’s not afraid to speak truth to power!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Morning Examiner‘s Conn Carroll notes the….
GOP Is Unhappy With Their Field
First, Herman Cain surged to double-digits and was in second place behind Mitt Romney. Then he faded away and Michele Bachmann came to within points of Romney. Then she faded away and Rick Perry took a commanding lead over Romney. Now Perry has faded, and, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Cain has taken a small lead on Romney.
The one constant in all this polling is that somewhere around 75 percent of the Republican primary electorate has consistently chosen anybody but Romney as their top choice for the Republican nomination. Republicans may tell pollsters they are satisfied with their options, but their actual preferences show otherwise.
The overwhelming majority of Republican primary voters are desperate to have anybody but Romney as their nominee. They just can’t find a better candidate to fill that roll. Just as John McCain went on to win the GOP nomination about his campaign was declared dead earlier in 2008, calling Romney “inevitable” now is premature.
And in Local News of Note, Brendan Clark forwarded satiric piece from the WaPo:
NameThatDistrict contest:Maryland’s 3rd
The Marylander Gerrymander? The Maryland Blue Crab? Those were the best names The Fix’s Twitter followers came up with when we tweeted the district below last week. But we think The Fix’s readers can do better.
So, for the next installment in our occasional “Name That District” contest, we’re asking you to come up with the best name for the new 3rd district that Maryland Democrats are proposing.Here’s the tortured district (which according to a local reporter took NINE hours to traverse by car — in the NINTH-smallest state in the country):
Meanwhile, no matter what happens with the tortuously gerrymandered Maryland 3rd, we’re stuck with….
In a related item from The Hill, courtesy of Bill Meisen, the always-astute Steny Hoyer has concluded:
Voters share blame for gridlock in Congress, Dem leader says
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer suggested Tuesday that voters are to blame for the partisan bickering and standoffs that have defined Congress this year. The Maryland Democrat said voters are “absolutely right” to think that “Congress isn’t working very well.” But that dysfunction, he said, is largely of their own making.
“The American people have every right to be angry [and] disappointed by the performance of the Congress,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “Of course, the American people have also elected people with hard stances, so that to some degree the American people are realizing the results of their votes. “If elections have consequences — which I think they do — some of those consequences are getting what you vote for,” Hoyer added. “In this case, many people voted for people who thought compromise was not something that they ought to participate in.”
….you’re DAMN RIGHT! The Obamao wanted America; we got the shaft….up to here!
On the Lighter Side….
Then there’s little bon mot from Jim Gleaves….
Finally, in News of the Bizarre….
Why did fan throw hot dog at Tiger?
A California man arrested for throwing a hot dog at Tiger Woodsduring a tournament said he wanted to do something ”courageous and epic.” Brandon Kelly of Petaluma told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Tuesday that he’s a fan of Woods and got the idea after watching ”Drive” — a recently released movie starring Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver.
”I threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie ‘Drive,’ ” Kelly said. ”As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, ‘I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.’ ”
”When I looked up, the hot dog was already in the air,” Woods said. ”The bun was kind of disintegrating.”