Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Question for Liberals

So, what do you think of the Solyndra thing?

16 comments:

  1. A certain percentage of all loans go bust. The overwhelming factor in this case was the sharp decrease in price of solar in large part due to foreign companies.

    It's entirely possible there's malfeasance on someone's case, but that hasn't been demonstrated.

    Oh, and would someone please start looking at defense contractors or the MMS like this? Thanks.

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  2. I can't decide whether I think it's a minor scandal that the Left is wrong to ignore for the understandable partisan reasons; or if I think it's a medium-sized scandal that the Left is wrong to ignore for the understandable partisan reasons.

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  3. Awful, just plain awful. GOP would never have done anything like this for Blackwater or their favorite oil company.

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  4. Typical tempest in a teapot that is only an issue because the large majority of the Washington Press Corps is wired for supporting conservative causes.

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  5. Economically, I think it's unfortunate, and perhaps illustrative of why it might be better to back-load incentives for the first companies to achieve set efficiency gains, rather than to front-load incentives into firms that get picked by politicians. Even if the firm then goes bust, it looks a lot better if they achieved some measurable success before getting funding.

    Politically, it's also one more thing for Republicans to disingenuously hang around our necks. It's not fair, but we have to play better if we're going to win, and not give them that kind of opportunity.

    Fiscally, we've lost way more money in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it's unlikely to be the straw that breaks the Treasury's back. Especially since they can print money, 2% inflation notwithstanding....

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  6. Solyndra is the kind of thing that happened at least once a month in the GW Bush Administration. Seriously they might have even tried to pass it off as a success because there isn't indisputable evidence of corruption or incompetence left littered around (which was the Bush Admin MO)

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  7. I consider it politically unfortunate, though not a serious breach of the public trust, abuse of power, etc.

    What makes the situation especially frustrating is that the partisan narrative from the Right is easily reduced to a few Luntzy catch-phrases ("crony capitalism" et al), while the partisan narrative from the Left, as usual, is more nuances and complex. The typical marginally engaged voter is going to find the Right's version easier to swallow, if for no other reason than it takes less effort on their part.

    What I worry about policy wise is if the Right uses it not only to batter Obama (hey, they're going to do that anyway, over everything), but if they can incorporate it into an effective assault against green industries and innovation as a whole. These kinds of loans are the sort of thing that a Republican administration would just as often do, and I'd hate to see us stop doing them under President Mitt Romney simply because anti-Solyndra fervor has him defending his right flank.

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  8. You know what would be way better than environmental-policy-by-loan-guarantee, opening the door to cronyism and influence peddling? Some kind of carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that correctly priced the negative externalities of fossil fuels and made investment in solar technology economically attractive.

    Republicans must be for that, right? Or are they just pissed of that the wrong cronies got greased?

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  9. The conservative Walton family is the 2nd largest investor in Solyndra; should I be shocked that Obama's critics aren't attacking him for helping conservatives?

    The real story: China wiped out Solyndra by surging production of a cheaper technology. The net result is that to price of solar has crashed, which is great for America, just not good for Solyndra.

    @Chris is of course correct that a better policy would be correctly pricing the externalities of fossil fuels; I doubt that will be easy to do.

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  10. Tempest in a teapot.

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  11. I haven't seen anything to make me believe it is a major scandal, but if the GOP wants to get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers and instead enact a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, I would welcome that. Not holding my breath waiting for it to happen though ....

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  12. I honestly don't know why anyone would remember the Solyndra story a week after they learned it. I take my reaction as evidence I must be leaning Democrat and not independent.

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  13. It is a dying scandal as it is leading to all sorts of contracts the airforce is pursuing in its quest to cut its oil use by 50%.

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  14. From the perspective of the contemporary right, cap and trade or taxation of carbon is picking winners and losers by other means, and still represents the mortal sin of "interference" in the holy market. The same is true, however, for the conservative choice in favor of a different, more traditional set of winners, the ones that can exploit natural resources in a way that pushes the real costs off to anyone else (externalities). The process requires a support ideology of active denial that inevitably comes to characterize every aspect of applied conservative politics, but that couldn't be perpetuated without the complicity of liberals.

    Solyndra fits very neatly within the conservative narrative, but reflects a deeper problem in applied progressivism, including the insistence among many that there must be a green but capitalist (not to mention global but American) solution to our problems, the alternatives being too dreadful to contemplate.

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  15. To try to add a thought that hasn't been covered yet, I think the scandal in some ways shows how difficult it has become for Democrats and the administration to make their climate policy convincing and plausible to the media and within the current terms of political debate. Their strong pro-green posture circa 2008 was coherent, straightforward and thus made sense, even if one disagreed with it.

    But since 2009, the soft-pedaling of the main liberal reasons for embracing green energy -- imperatives to fight climate change, to wean ourselves off a globally integrated oil market with national security risks, to limit pollution, etc. -- has left Democrats susceptible to the attack by Republicans that their green policies were only a way to channel funds to preferred groups. It's had limited success so far, but the GOP's attack has had greater success at breaking through than would have been expected, because their's a general rhetorical vacuum on the left side of forthright defense of larger goals concerning climate change and energy policy.

    Now that soft-pedaling had been done for a reason (the economic crisis), but that doesn't change the fact that it makes their energy policy less comprehensible.

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  16. I second PF's comments, but I also give credit to ordinary people who know this is a longterm question of the cost of energy. They've seen gas prices go up and stay up, and they know it will happen again. People in the states affected are nervous about fracking. There is a lot more interest in green energy among ordinary people than the Beltway realizes--or at least that's my read, from the conversations I've heard, especially back home in western PA.

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