Skip to content

President Obama arguably spurred the development of the Tea Party, helped hand the Republicans the House majority and, best of all, put an end, we hope, to the green-jobs fetish.

The Weekly Standard explains: 

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for green jobs. Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturing company much ballyhooed by the Obama administration, declared bankruptcy. The company had received $535 million in September 2009 from a Department of Energy grant program funded by the stimulus. Supposedly, the grant would create 4,000 jobs — at a bargain-basement cost to taxpayers of $133,750 per job. . . .

As if the White House didn’t have enough rhetorical egg on its face, [President] Obama himself gave a speech at Solyndra in 2010 in which he declared, “You’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith. . . . It’s happening right now. The future is here.”

The truth is that “green jobs” is a 21st-century euphemism for a more familiar term — crony capitalism. It’s probably not surprising to learn that one of Solyndra’s key investors, Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, was an Obama campaign “bundler” raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s 2008 race; Kaiser himself, along with Solyndra executives and board members, donated another $87,050.

As the Weekly Standard noted, even liberal media publications have figured out that green-job talk is mostly hype. (“Last month, the New York Times ran a story announcing that the ‘Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.’ ”) But conservatives knew it was cotton-candy policy — colorful but without substance.

Politicians are not particularly well-equipped to identify market trends or spot investment opportunities. They are, however, very adept at rewarding politically connected friends and using taxpayer money to in essence reimburse their donors (and then some) for the generosity shown in helping the pols get elected. You dress it all up with high-minded phrases (“a 21st-century economy,” “green jobs,” “private-public partnerships”), and it sells like hot cakes. I mean who wants a 19th-century economy? And goodness knows we don’t want dingy jobs, we want bright green ones (with that little recycling logo on every product).

But in the end we come back to a truism. There is no more effective tool in promoting viable industries and creating wealth than the free marketplace. If we want to level the playing field by taking away government subsidies, that might save money and prompt competition. But the rest of the green talk is mostly gibberish, spouted by politicians who have not a clue how the market works and encouraged by investors who find it easy to fleece the taxpayers. Perhaps with a much-needed wake-up call, politicians will move on to other ideas, and investors will have to go back to the time-honored tradition of making money on their own.

Washington Post, 5 September 2011