American Elephants

President Obama Has Never Held a Private-Sector Job, But Picks the “Winners and Losers” for the Economy. by The Elephant's Child

It was just a little over a week ago that President Obama was explaining in an interview that one of the reasons the unemployment rate remained so high was that business had gotten more efficient, and had replaced workers with machines. When you went to the bank you used an ATM and didn’t go to a teller.  (ATMs aren’t that recent).  Many jokes made about this gaffe.

So the president followed this up on Saturday with a trip to Pittsburgh, PA to visit and praise RedZone, a new high-tech company that manufactures robots to inspect  water and sewage pipes from the inside. So having blamed the high rate of unemployment on machines replacing human workers — now he’s boosting a company that makes robots.  Oh ha, ha, ha.

“This company is just one example of how advanced manufacturing can help spur job-creation and economies across the country. That’s why this week, we launched what we’re calling an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. It’s a partnership that brings our federal government together with some of America’s most brilliant minds and American’s most innovative companies and manufacturers.”

But at RedZone Robotics, “they’re not just solving problems, they’re working with unions to create jobs operating the robots, and they’re saving cities millions of dollars in infrastructure costs.” Oh, RedZone is not creating jobs, they’re trying to get municipal unions (government workers) to hire more union employees to operate the robots. More government jobs, more government unions, with all the pension and collective bargaining problems that entails.

The Washington Post notes that “with trips that began two months after he took office, President Obama has devoted more than half of his out-of-town private-business visits to promoting a single industry: clean technology, which the president says will lead the nation back to economic prosperity. He’s made 19 trips to 22 clean technology companies, ranging from solar cells to electric car batteries to windows and new lighting. In the 2008 campaign, he promised $150 billion for innovative energy projects. and investors such as those with National Venture Capital Associates have been generous with their support for the Obama campaign, and have gotten jobs r advisory positions with the administration.

Unfortunately most of these start-up companies employ only modest numbers of people: nothing that would compare with the thousands of high paying jobs provided by the petroleum industry when they are not being blocked by administration policies refusing permits, shutting down coal-fired power plants, closing off oil-bearing lands from drilling.

The administration is picking clean-tech “winners and losers” by pouring “government money” into a sector best determined by the free-market.  “Government money” was the WaPo phrase. Is it necessary to remind them that the government has no money of its own? Governments, particularly an administration that has fewer people who have ever worked in the private sector than any administration in American history, don’t know squat about picking successful technologies or skilled management.

David Axlerod, Obama’s campaign guru, said admiringly a few days ago that Obama was absolutely consistent. Richard Epstein, who knew him at University of Chicago, described the same quality a little differently. He said Obama is very dogmatic in terms of substantive positions. His ideas are set in concrete, and he does not change his mind. Sounds like he does not learn from the evidence, or from the experience of others — but I have never met the man.

Congress is asking questions about some of the political connections of some companies that have received federal help. The most attention has focused on Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar company that had received a $535 million federal loan guarantee. Obama visited the company’s factory in May 2010, only weeks after independent auditors had questioned whether the company could remain a “going concern.”

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations said he is “concerned that there was a hurry to get this money out of the door and that companies and individuals that supported the president were among the beneficiaries.

A month after Obama’s visit, the company withdrew its public offering plans. In November Solyndra announced that it would close its older factory and reduce its workforce by 127 people. Company officials said they never intended to hire 1,000 additional workers, but thought they could create that many jobs in the related supply chain. Analysts don’t think their product is viable.

Solyndra is not alone in profiting from government largess. There are many others, and evidence of crony capitalism, big campaign donations, and successful companies that have the misfortune to exist in Republican strongholds. No Obama visits for them.

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