Despite blaming Bush for two years, and constant moans about uncooperative Republicans along the way, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats cannot be accused of not being successful in implementing major portions of their agenda since 2009. Never mind that this "success" has resulted in our nation drowning in debt ($15.5 trillion and counting).
In early 2009 the then-Democrat-controlled Congress passed, and Obama signed into law, an $800 billion jobs stimulus package that did very little to jump-start the country's main economic engine, the private sector. While private-sector employers continued to hemorrhage jobs, most of that $800 billion was spent to ensure that government-sector jobs were spared the ax. Consistent with that effort, the president's budgetary manipulation of the tax code in order to socially engineer the move toward a big-government green agenda also came into sharp focus.
The idea of obtaining a natural gas or electric vehicle through a "tax incentive" at a car dealership is just a small part of the Obama green agenda.
The genesis of Obama's green agenda can perhaps be traced to Oct. 27, 2009, when Vice President Joe Biden announced that Fisker Automotive would produce plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Wilmington, Del. Since that time, taxpayers have provided $529 million in federal loan guarantees to the firm. No vehicles were ever made in the United States, and the staff was laid off in February. Yet the company is going back to the Department of Energy for more help.
In January 2011 Biden was at it again when he visited the Ener1 plant in Greenfield, Ind., to praise its plan to manufacture batteries for electric cars. "We're going to reshape how Americans drive," Biden proclaimed. Again, taxpayers were put on the hook for $118.5 million. Yet no batteries were produced, and this year Ener1 filed for federal bankruptcy protection.
But the most infamous of the stimulus boondoggles was the $535 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan the White House secured for the green-jobs company Solyndra. Today Solyndra lies bankrupt and under investigation by the FBI.
In a rush to legitimate green jobs and to promote the president's pet alternative-energy firms, the administration has not only wasted the opportunity to create blue-collar jobs but also wasted a lot of money. As was recently noted by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor, "the 'green jobs' argument most commonly marshaled is thus looking thinner by the day. Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy reveal that the $38.6 billion of federally guaranteed loans to green-energy projects have thus far produced only 3,545 new, permanent jobs ($5 million per job), far short of the 65,000 jobs promised by the administration."
Even more troubling was a report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University's School of Communication recently, which noted, "[d]espite all the talk of green jobs, the overwhelming majority of stimulus money spent on wind power has gone to foreign companies. Seventy-nine percent of all green-jobs funding went to companies based overseas."
While it is true a few of these green companies are still around and a few more are actually producing, many have suffered layoffs, plant shutdowns and bankruptcies.
The broader and more important point is the American people are exhausted by the government's continual effort to spend money in places and on things we cannot afford. We just don't have an appetite for budgets that do not reflect the nation's priorities.
What we spend our money on says a great deal about our priorities, and what the president spends our tax dollars on speaks volumes about his. To bring this point into focus, in his latest budget President Obama has chosen to cut funding for the successful opportunity scholarships for poor and minority students in the District of Columbia, and at the same time he subsidizes electric cars at a cost of $10,000 per car. Enough said.
Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007. He is currently a political analyst for MSNBC.