September 30, 2011 11:36AM

The First Rough Draft of the Solyndra Story

Just reading the headlines of the Solyndra stories in major newspapers the past month tells a story that just keeps getting more discouraging:


Obama‐​backed green firm shuts down
The Washington Post, September 1, 2011


Solar firm to cease operations; Solyndra had received a $535‐​million loan guarantee. It plans to seek Chapter 11.
Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2011


A Third Solar Company Files for Bankruptcy
The New York Times, September 7, 2011


FBI raids offices of solar‐​panel firm
The Washington Post, September 9, 2011


E‑mails cite rush on loan to solar firm
The Washington Post, September 14, 2011


Treasury to probe loan to Solyndra; The Federal Financing Bank’s role in the failed firm’s borrowing will be the focus.
Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2011


White House official: Funding Solyndra further was risky
The Washington Post, September 16, 2011


Amid Solyndra probe, Energy Dept. moving billions in loans
The Washington Post, September 17, 2011


SOLAR FIRM’S OBAMA LINKS PROBED; A fundraiser’s role in a loan program that aided Solyndra stokes concern about the company’s influence.
Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2011


Questions Raised Over Letting Another Lender Help a Failing Solar Company
The New York Times, September 17, 2011


Justice Dept. urged to probe Solyndra
The Washington Post, September 20, 2011


Solyndra officials to invoke Fifth before House panel
The Washington Post, September 21, 2011


Solyndra’s ex‐​employees tell of high spending, factory woes
The Washington Post, September 22, 2011


In Rush To Assist A Solar Company, U.S. Missed Signs
The New York Times, September 23, 2011


Government OKs new green loans; Two execs of bankrupt solar firm Solyndra plead the 5th before a congressional panel.
Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2011


A solar pariah had Republican parents, too
The Washington Post, September 27, 2011


Where Solyndra said yes, others demurred
The Washington Post, September 27, 2011


Obama aides voiced doubts about loans like Solyndra’s; A top concern was that the vetting process wasn’t rigorous enough.
Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2011


Energy Dept. knew Solyndra had violated its loan terms
The Washington Post, September 29, 2011


U.S. Backs New Loans For Projects On Energy
The New York Times, September 29, 2011


Energy chief cleared Solyndra loan breaks
The Washington Post, September 30, 2011


I found these headlines on Nexis, but of course they can be found on the newspapers’ websites. I linked to two of the stories last week.


Some have tried to dismiss the Solyndra story. Private investors make plenty of mistakes, too. Companies fail, sometimes through no fault of their own. But this story has all the hallmarks of government decision making: officials spending other people’s money with little incentive to spend it prudently, political pressure to make decisions without proper vetting, the substitution of political judgment for the judgments of millions of investors, the enthusiastic embrace of fads like “green energy,” political officials ignoring warnings from civil servants, crony capitalism, close connections between politicians and the companies that benefit from government allocation of capital, the appearance — at least — of favors for political supporters, and the kind of promiscuous spending that has delivered us $14 trillion in national debt. It may end up being a case study in political economy.