Good reporting shouldn’t go unnoticed just because it appeared during the week after Christmas, so let me draw your attention to a comprehensive article on the front page of the December 26 Washington Post by Joe Stephens and Carol Leonnig:
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green‐technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e‑mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.…
The documents reviewed by The Post … show that as Solyndra tottered, officials discussed the political fallout from its troubles, the “optics” in Washington and the impact that the company’s failure could have on the president’s prospects for a second term. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra’s collapse would have on laid‐off workers or on the development of clean‐energy technology.
Did you know that when the president visits a factory, his aides tell the workers what to wear? Keep digging in the documents:
Like most presidential appearances, Obama’s May 2010 stop at Solyndra’s headquarters was closely managed political theater.
Obama’s handlers had lengthy e‑mail discussions about how solar panels should be displayed (from a robotic arm, it was decided). They cautioned the company’s chief executive against wearing a suit (he opted for an open‐neck shirt and black slacks) and asked another executive to wear a hard hat and white smock. They instructed blue‐collar employees to wear everyday work clothes, to preserve what they called “the construction‐worker feel.”
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 $15 trillion in national debt. It may end up being a case study in political economy. And if you want government to guide the economy, to pick winners, to override market investments, then this is what you want.
More on Solyndra here and here.