Democrat Political Cronies profit well from Energy Department Loan Guarantees and Stimulus Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Thomas Jefferson did not want the federal government to have money.  This is where he parted ways with Alexander Hamilton.   Hamilton wanted to give the federal government money to spend to jumpstart American industry.  To make it an empire to rival the British Empire.  But Jefferson looked at world history and saw nothing but examples of corruption whenever money and government intertwined.  This is one reason why Washington D.C. is where it is.  Because the big financiers were in New York City.  Which in those days was on the other side of the world from Washington D.C.  Something he hoped would keep money out of the hands of the federal government.  For awhile at least.

Fast forward to today.  Where we have a bloated federal government the size of which would have sickened Jefferson.  And seeing the amount of money it spent would have killed him.  The Department of Energy guaranteeing loans?  And a trillion dollar stimulus bill?  Had he lived he would have suspected some heinous Hamiltonian plot.  For neither would have happened in a Jefferson presidency.  For he knew it would only lead to corruption.  Like it has (see Solyndra, Cronyism, and Double-Dipping on the Taxpayers’ Dime by Nancy Pfotenhauer posted 7/23/2012 on U.S. News & World Report).

Solyndra became the poster child of spectacularly poor political and policy judgment when it filed for bankruptcy, laid off a thousand employees, and left taxpayers holding the bag on $535 million in loan guarantees. In testimony Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the other shoe dropped. Apparently, many of the companies that received loans under the auspices of the same infamous program were well-established entities that essentially double-dipped to grab as many taxpayer dollars as possible…

According to Mercatus scholar Veronique de Rugy’s testimony, approximately 90 percent of the [Department of Energy’s Section] 1705 program loans went to subsidize power plants often backed by big companies with extensive resources…

Now comes the double dip: Companies such as NRG Energy Inc.—closely linked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—not only received $3.8 billion 1705 loans (almost a quarter of the total), but three subentities of the same company received a total of at least 39 grants under the stimulus law…

While happily House Republicans are moving to end the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, the Export-Import Bank, reauthorized in May in a rush of bipartisan irresponsibility, was part of the double-dipping in a particularly distressing manner.  According to de Rugy, First Solar raked in $646 million in 1705 loan guarantees through partner Exelon and landed another $547.7 million of the same from the Ex-IM bank…

…Some of the Ex-Im money went to a Canadian company named St. Clair Solar, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. St. Clair Solar received a total of $192.9 million broken into two loans to buy solar panels from First Solar. In other words, the company received a loan to buy solar panels from itself.  (emphasis added)

Loaning money to a company so it can buy from itself?  That just isn’t right.  And $3.8 billion going to a crony of Majority Leader Harry Reid?  No wonder the Democrats are all for green energy initiatives and stimulus spending.  They get to take care of their friends.  Get some of that money in return.  And live very well courtesy of the taxpayers who they are stealing from.  Of course they will deny this.  Saying people (i.e., rich people like them) will eventually spend this money in the economy.  That when they and their friends buy expensive cars, private planes, large houses, expensive wines, vacation junkets, etc., they are creating jobs in the economy.  Generating economic activity.  Which is what a stimulus is supposed to do.  And they will say this with righteous indignation.  But what they won’t say is how much middle class economic activity their high taxes kill in the private sector.  And how much their deficit spending adds to the national debt.  Which has already lowered America’s debt rating once.  Which is just a sign of the devastation their reckless spending will cause us.  And our children.

We should follow Jefferson’s advice.  And limit the amount of money government can spend.  Defense spending?  Yes.  Intervening into the private economy?  No.  Because loan guarantees and stimulus spending don’t help anyone but those spending the money.  Our politicians.  And their cronies.  For Jefferson was right.  Nothing but corruption comes from intertwining money and government.

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President Obama’s Green Initiatives did not Create Jobs or Save the Planet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

If the Energy Department was a private corporation it would be the ideal bailout target for a company like Bain Capital.  Inept management, poor investments and bad strategic policy.  It has everything.  So much so that it would be easier for the bailout team to ask them at Energy what actually worked.  It would keep the initial meeting much shorter (see Difference Engine: To and from the grid posted 6/1/2012 on The Economist).

Since then, interest rates have fallen, while the price of solar panels has tumbled even more so—thanks to Chinese overcapacity. Meanwhile, electricity rates (at least those in southern California) have risen noticeably. Your correspondent reckons photovoltaic solar systems now cost half as much as they did four years ago.

Two things could make or break America’s affair with solar power. One concerns the ushered in by the economic stimulus bill of 2009. Many of those temporary tax credits are now coming to an end. If nothing is done to extend them, the incentives will fall from a peak of over $44 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion by 2014. That could bring the solar-installation business to a screeching halt and wipe out tens of thousands of green jobs. The industry’s future depends largely on the outcome of the November election….

The irony is that those who invest their own money to generate clean electricity from solar panels on their rooftops are likely to be the last to benefit from it environmentally. Nowadays, most people work outside the home during the day and consume the bulk of their residential electricity in the evening and during the night. In California, that is when the state—which meets only 70% of its electricity requirement from its own resources—relies heavily on cheap electricity imported from dirty coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the country. This situation will only be exacerbated if, as expected, plug-in battery vehicles, needing to be recharged overnight, account for an increasing share of the Californian fleet.

That aside, all your correspondent now has to worry about is whether the 31% anti-dumping tariff recently imposed on Chinese solar-panel makers really does deter them. Having seen such trade spats play out many times before, he suspects the tariffs will only spur Chinese firms to acquire the few remaining American solar-panel makers so that they can carry on manufacturing in low-cost Wuxi or Shanghai and do their final assembly in middle America (presumably with local subsidies to boot).

So solar panels have never been cheaper thanks to the Chinese.  Which is good.  These lower prices will encourage people to save the planet by installing solar panels onto their roofs.  Unless the government raises these low prices with a 31% anti-dumping tariff.  Hmm.  Looks like you have to choose between saving the planet.  And providing green jobs.  For as this anti-dumping tariff clearly shows you can’t have both.

And because jobs are more important than the environment the government is subsidizing the clean energy industry.  Let’s crunch some numbers.  They say we could lose “tens of thousands of green jobs.”  So let’s assume there were 80,000 jobs created in the first year.  And they declined by 10,000 every year to reflect with the growing number of bankruptcies in the green energy sector.  Dividing the incentive by the cost in the first year you get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  If do the same for the last year you also get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  That’s a lot of money to pay someone.  And I’m guessing that the Chinese aren’t paying their employees a half million each in wages and benefits.  Not when they’re making these solar panels so cheap that the U.S. has to slap an anti-dumping tariff on them.

Of course these numbers don’t include the $500 billion the government blew on Solyndra.  Or the other Solyndras out there.  Which when you factor all of these in these green jobs are costing the taxpayer probably in excess of a million dollars each.  For what?  To pay someone a $50,000 wage on an assembly line so he or she can take these earnings and stimulate the economy?  Talk about a negative return on investment.  And the president is attacking Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital past?  If Bain Capital took over the United States government to turn it around to get a sensible return on tax dollar investments guess who would be the first fired from his job?  The incompetent chief executive that spent a million dollars plus to get $50,000 worth of stimulus.

And the kicker is that none of this matters.  When solar power is available people are at work.  When people are home cranking up their air conditioners and plugging in their electric cars for the night the sun is down and coal-fired power plants are meeting this peak demand.  So we get nothing.  No jobs.  And we don’t even save the planet.  We just get higher taxes and more debt.  A pretty crappy deal if you ask me.  We have coal.  We should just use coal.  And not demonize it.  We’d arrive at the same outcome.  Only with fewer taxes and less debt.  And cheaper electricity.  Because we’d be bringing more coal-fired plants on line.  Now that is a smart turnaround plan.  The kind of turnaround that could end up in the win column at Bain Capital.

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The Solution to the Bungling Bureaucracy that gave us Solyndra is to add more Bureaucracy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2012

Week in Review

Big Government has failed.  So to fix Big Government those in government say the solution is to make government bigger (see Energy Loan Oversight Is Needed, Audit Finds by JOHN M. BRODER posted 2/10/2012 on The New York Times).

The Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program for alternative energy projects, which produced the ill-fated loan to the solar panel maker Solyndra, needs more rigorous financial oversight and stricter performance standards for recipients to reduce the chance of future defaults, according to an audit conducted by the White House and released Friday.

So the way to fix this bureaucratic mess is to add more bureaucracy.  Grow the size of government.  Spend more taxpayer money to provide more oversight on worthless taxpayer-financed investments.  Interesting.  Only in government.  Where they fix failures by doing even more of the same.

But it doesn’t end with Solyndra.

Solyndra and Beacon are not the only loan recipients to find themselves in trouble. Fisker Automotive, an electric car maker in Irvine, Calif., has missed some milestones that were written into its loan agreement, so the Energy Department has cut off credit. As a result, Fisker has stopped work on the conversion of an old General Motors factory in Wilmington, Del., that is supposed to produce an electric sedan, and laid off more than 60 employees and contractors.

Spokesmen for Fisker and the Energy Department both said that the terms of the loan were confidential and they would not say precisely what milestones were missed, but Roger Ormisher, a spokesman for the company, said, “We admitted very openly we were late to market with the Karma,” the company’s $102,000 sporty sedan. Fifteen hundred have been built and “a few hundred” sold, he said. Progress was slowed by a safety recall.

It wasn’t just an electric sedan.  But a sporty sedan.  And a fairly luxurious one at that coming in at $102,000.  But will people buy it?  Probably not.  You see, the biggest problem electric cars have that prevents the masses from buying them is range.  They just don’t go far on a single charge.  Especially if you use the headlights or heater.  And you can’t recharge them quickly.  Which means if you run out of charge you can’t have a friend drive out a gas can full of charge to pour into the tank.  You run out of charge on the road and you’re paying for a tow home. 

And making any car ‘sporty’ just compounds the problem.  Because if you’re accelerating quickly you drain the battery faster.  And this is the car the government is subsidizing.  Of course this is going to be another Solyndra.  No one’s going to buy this car.  Unless the government subsidizes the bejesus out of it to bring that $102,000 down to something closer to $15,000.  Where people may put up with the inconvenience of driving nothing but one short trip a day.  At least, until they get their electric bill.  Because electricity isn’t free.  And if you’re charging up a battery than can make are car zoom sportily along, it’s going to have some big batteries.  And long charge times.  Making big electric bills.

If they are going to add oversight they need to add it at the level where they decide to back these losers.  Before the money goes out.  Or, better yet, they should just stop investing in these losers.  If a company can’t get investment capital there’s a reason.  They don’t have a good idea.  At least, not one anyone will risk their own money on.

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Keynesian Tax and Spend Monetary Policy will Never Overcome Ruinous Fiscal and Regulatory Policy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 23rd, 2011

No Theory is Sacrosanct in the Scientific Method, Even if it’s Albert Einstein’s Theory

Albert Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity has held in the scientific community for some 106 years.  It hasn’t been accepted as a matter of faith, though.  It has been tested thousands of times in attempts to debunk it.  Right up to today.  Where it now appears we may be close to debunking it (see “Faster than light” particles may be physics revolution by Robert Evans posted 9/23/2011 on Reuters).

“It is premature to comment on this,” Professor Stephen Hawking, the world’s most well-known physicist, told Reuters. “Further experiments and clarifications are needed…”

“When an experiment finds an apparently unbelievable result and can find no artifact of the measurement to account for it, it is normal to invite broader scrutiny….it is good scientific practice,” he said…

Einstein’s theory has been tested thousands of times over the past 106 years and only recently have there been just slight hints that the behavior of some elementary particles of matter might not fit into it…

Ereditato, a physicist who also works at the Einstein Institute in the University of Berne, said the potential impact on science “is too large to draw any immediate conclusions or attempt physics interpretations…”

“Only when the dust finally settles should we dare draw any firm conclusions,” said Professor Forshaw. “It is in the nature of science that for every new and important discovery there will be hundreds of false alarms.”

This is the scientific method.  No theory is sacrosanct.  Even one by the great Albert Einstein.  Even if it’s been around for 106 years.

Quite the contrast to the theory of global warming.  Accepted by government scientists as indisputable fact.  Even though it has never been given serious scientific scrutiny like that given to one of the world’s greatest scientist.  Albert Einstein.

Considering the Economics, Only a Fool would Bet Against the Chinese in the area of Solar Panels

But Al Gore is smarter than Albert Einstein.  For he says that global warming is a scientific fact.  Even though we still call Einstein’s Theory of Relativity a theory after 106 years.  But not the theory of global warming.  No.  That theory is not a theory.  It’s fact.  So certain a fact that world governments have been killing economic activity everywhere to stop the ravishes of global warming.  Even investing in companies that promise to give us renewable green energy of the future.  Like that one that just ripped off the American taxpayer to the tune of half a billion dollars (see Solyndra haunts other government-backed solar firms by Steve Hargreaves posted 9/23/2011 on CNN Money).

At least three other government-backed solar firms face the same challenging market conditions that brought down Solyndra, the now bankrupt solar panel maker that could cost taxpayers over $500 million…

The company’s downfall is generally thought to have been caused by the declining price of silicon.

Solyndra didn’t use silicon. But many of its competitors did — traditional solar firms like Sunpower (SPWRA), Trina Solar (TSL), Yingli (YGE) and Jinkosolar (JKS). Solyndra was banking that high silicon prices would give it a competitive advantage…

Are they also doomed? Experts say that if they can further develop their technology they may have a fighting chance but market conditions in the near-term are working against them…

An Energy Department spokesman said the agency was not worried about these companies failing, saying it conducts rigorous reviews of all the ventures it funds.

Of course.  There’s nothing to worry about these other companies failing.  Because the Energy Department conducts a rigorous review of all the ventures they fund.  Except Solyndra apparently.  Or they did review them rigorously.  And the Energy Department just sucks at its job.

China’s investment in silicon as well as its huge investments in solar panel makers, combined with weaker demand worldwide as subsidies expire in Europe, caused the price of traditional solar panels to plummet.

In the last year alone they fell some 40%.

All across the globe, solar panel makers, especially ones that were developing more advanced technology, are finding it hard to compete with the Chinese as the price of solar panels drops.

I guess the Energy Department just sucks at its job.  I mean, imagine you’re an investor for a moment.  And you want to invest in a store that sells home improvement stuff.  Do you invest in the Home Depot?  Or the mom and pop hardware store?  The Home Depot is much bigger.  Has a greater variety of stuff.  And sells that stuff for 40% less than Mom and Pop.  Which store would you invest in?  Of course, you would invest in the Home Depot.  But the Energy Department, the geniuses that they are, would invest in Mom and Pop.  And then act shocked when they go belly up in the face of that fierce competition.

Considering the economics, only a fool would bet against the Chinese in the area of solar panels.  Then again, no one in Washington seems to understand economics in the least.

Cheaper panels mean more people will switch to the clean technology. Work has been booming for solar installers, project developers, and financiers. Just this week the industry said solar power capacity in the United States jumped 69% in the second quarter compared to the same time last year.

The Energy Department, as part of its plan to fund R&D and commercialization of renewable and clean energy technology, has backed or is considering backing loans to 42 firms across the sector totaling $39 billion in funding.

The manufacturers are taking it on the chin.  But the installers are installing these cheap Chinese solar panels like there’s no tomorrow.  You’d think the Energy Department would be happy that these silly things are being installed and get out of the investment business.  But no.  They’re going to piss away another $39 billion to fund firms that won’t be able to compete against the Chinese either.

By a show of hands who wants the Republican president to abolish the Energy Department in 2013?

One Gets the Feeling that Government Likes Wasteful Spending as it Adds to the Deficit

We really need to cut the government off.  They just aren’t responsible with our money.  If it ain’t throwing money away on solar panels, they’re throwing it away on dead people (see Gov’t paid $600 million in benefits to dead people by Sam Hananel posted 9/23/2011 on the Associated Press).

The federal government has doled out more than $600 million in benefit payments to dead people over the past five years, a watchdog report says.

Such payments are meant for retired or disabled federal workers…

In one case, the son of a beneficiary continued receiving payments for 37 years after his father’s death in 1971. The payments – totaling more than $515,000 – were only discovered when the son died in 2008.

If you owe a dollar in taxes you can bet the IRS will find you wherever you are.  But when it comes to spending our money it’s a different story.  As they are probably afraid of any close scrutiny that might show other mishandled funds.

Last year, government investigators found that more than 89,000 stimulus payments of $250 each from the massive economic recovery package went to people who were either dead or in prison.

There’s another $22 million pissed away by Uncle Sam.  $22 million here.  $600 million there.  And $16 muffins.  Where does it stop?  They are so ruthless when it comes to taxing us.  But once they get our money they apparently don’t give a damn about what happens to it then.

One gets the feeling that they like this waste.  As it adds to the deficit.  And the greater the deficit is the greater the need for new revenue.  Higher tax rates.  And getting the rich to pay their fair share.  I say let’s raise the tax rates on those doing such a poor job handling our money.  If they have such a cavalier attitude about taxpayers’ money, let them belly up to the bar and pay for their waste with their own damn money.

If You Want Real Stimulus Repeal Dodd-Frank.  That Alone will Create 30,000 Jobs at One Bank.

So the government is horrible at picking investment winners.  And is about as responsible as a teenager with money.  But Obama is looking to spend another $450 billion in stimulus.  To create jobs.  Unlike that $800 billion stimulus that failed to create jobs.  So they don’t know how to create jobs either.  Worse, they only thing they seem to be good at is destroying jobs (see The Dodd-Frank Layoffs posted 9/13/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Bank of America appears to have provided part of the answer by announcing yesterday that the nation’s largest bank will cut 30,000 jobs between now and 2014…

The Fed dutifully ordered banks to cut their fees almost in half. Bank of America disclosed in its most recent quarterly report that this change will reduce the bank’s debit-card revenues by $475 million in just the fourth quarter of this year. The new rules take effect on October 1, so BofA seems to have sensible timing as it begins to shed workers from a consumer business that has become suddenly less profitable by federal edict…

But given the real-world results for bank employees, politicians should not be allowed to pretend that there are no consequences when they deliberately reduce the profitability of employers. Mr. Obama proposed last week to spend some $450 billion more in outlays or tax credits to create more jobs, but it would have cost a lot less to save these 30,000.

If they want real stimulus they should repeal Dodd-Frank.  That alone will create 30,000 jobs.  At one bank.  If this happens at other banks you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of jobs.  Now that’s stimulus.

If they really want to create jobs they ought to go big.  Abolish the EPA.  And the Energy Department.  For a start.  With that kind of uncertainty removed just think of the explosion in economic activity.  Creating jobs galore.  Hundreds of thousands.  Perhaps millions.  The oil and coal industries alone would probable wrest this country from recession.

The Economy is not Just Monetary Policy.  It’s Fiscal and Regulatory Policy, too.

So it’s clear the government doesn’t know the first thing about stimulating economic activity.  They just can’t figure that out.  But what they can do is destroy jobs.  They’re real good at that.  And the reason for all of this is that they’re Keynesians.  They worship at the altar of Keynesian Economics.  Despite its horrendous track record.  Almost three years and counting for the current administration.  But they refuse to lose faith.  Instead, when they fail, they just choose to fail again.  By pursuing more of the same failed policies (see Markets tumble after Fed says it will buy longer-term bonds to try to boost economy by Neil Irwin posted 9/23/2011 on The Washington Post).

The announcement that the Fed would buy $400 billion in long-term Treasury bonds immediately achieved its intended effect, pushing rates on these securities and other investments to their lowest level in decades.

But the stock market rendered a sharply negative verdict. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index tumbled almost 3 percent on the Fed’s discouraging statement that its leaders see “significant downside risks” for the economy. Asian markets closed down between 2 and 4.85 percent, and key European indexes were trading more than 4 percent lower at midday.

No one wants to borrow money.  Businesses.  Or consumers.  Because there is just too much economic uncertainty with the Obama administration.  Everybody is hunkering down.  Deleveraging.  And hoarding cash.  Until better economic times.  Times with less uncertainty.  Probably starting sometime after 2012.  When there’ll be a new Republican president.  And hopefully a Republican House and Senate.  To undo those things causing all of this uncertainty.  Dodd-Frank.  Obamacare.  Etc.

The Fed action, which capped a two-day meeting, is focused squarely on lowering mortgage rates in an effort to strengthen the ailing housing market and lighten the load of the tremendous debt weighing on consumers. The move could also make it cheaper for businesses to borrow money for investments and push more dollars into the stock market.

The housing bubble create a surplus of houses that’ll be around for a long, long time.  The country is dotted with empty homes that banks have foreclosed on.  And the banks own a whole bunch more that will be hitting the market soon.  It’s a buyer’s market out there.  But it sure sucks to be a seller.  Especially if your mortgage is under water.  Homes have lost so much value after that bubble burst that anyone selling now will lose tens of thousands of dollars.  So they’re not selling.  Or buying.  No matter how cheap mortgage rates are.

The bond-buying program that ended in the summer, though massive in scale, failed to keep economic growth from sputtering. The disappointing result showed the limits of what the Fed can accomplish at a time when consumers are struggling with enormous debts and the U.S. banking system remains traumatized. The new initiative could face the same constraints.

Quantitative easing 2 failed.  And there’s no reason to think that quantitative easing 3 won’t fail as well.  So why do it?  Because they’re Keynesians.  And their scripture says that’s what you do.  Weak demand?  Why you fix that with cheap money.  But they don’t understand that the economy is not just monetary policy.  It’s fiscal policy, too.  And their fiscal policy is killing the economy.  And what their fiscal policy doesn’t kill their regulatory policy will.

The Only Way to Fix this Economy is to Get Rid of Keynesian Policies

Tax and spend Keynesian policies are strangling the economy.  Stimulus spending doesn’t work.  If it did the economy would be reaching record heights due to that record spending.  But it’s not.  The tax and spend Keynesians explanation for this record of dismal failure?  They didn’t spend enough.

The economic malaise has a lot more to do with uncertainty than weak demand.  It’s that out of control spending.  You eventually have to pay for it.  And every business owner knows that ultimately you pay for spending with taxes.  And they see the Obama administration is hell-bent on raising taxes on anyone earning more than $200,000 a year.  Which will be a tax hike on most small business as their earnings pass through to their personal tax return.

And while they’re waiting for punitive taxes to come down the pike they’re being hammered by regulatory compliance costs.  The big one scaring the bejesus out of them is Obamacare.  And Dodd-Frank is not just for Wall Street bankers.  Not to mention the EPA’s enormous impact on business operations.  They’re being bitch-slapped left and right by these regulations.  And they are terrified by what’s next from this administration.

You see, Big Government Keynesian politicians don’t understand economics.  Or business.  They see business as cash piñatas.  That they can whack at their pleasure.  They have no idea how they make money.  But they assume that they will go on making money no matter what they do in Washington.  And being the Keynesians they are, they believe that businesses make money for government first.  And then, after government takes what they want, what they deem fair, then and only then can they use whatever they earn for their own selfish wants and pleasures.  The selfish rich bastards they are.  Those contemptible business owners.

This is how Big Government Keynesians think.  And this is why they fail miserably at creating jobs.  And economic activity.  The only way to fix this economy, then, is to get rid of Keynesian policies.  And the only way to do that is to get rid of the Keynesians.  At the voting booth.  By voting conservative.  And in our two-party system, that means voting Republican.

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