10/24/11 – We Need an Environment for Jobs

We Need an Environment for Jobs

By Mitt Romney
October 24, 2011

First, the good news: President Barack Obama has finally created some “green jobs.” Now for the bad news: They are not in the United States, but in Finland.

The creation of environmentally friendly jobs has been at the top of Barack Obama’s policy agenda since coming into office. With the first of his now many jobs plans, the President set out to fulfill his campaign promise of spending $150 billion to create ten million green jobs. Alas, things didn’t quite worked out as planned.

First came Solyndra, the solar-panel maker backed by a major Obama campaign-funds bundler, which President Obama hailed as a “true engine of economic growth.” It turned out to be a true engine of bankruptcy. Even as the administration trumpeted its accomplishments, the firm was careening toward insolvency. Taxpayers were left holding a $500 million bill, and the firm was left facing an FBI investigation. Nonetheless, at least one Solyndra-linked fundraiser is helping to organize Tuesday’s presidential cash call in San Francisco.

Now we may be in for more of the same. The Obama administration has shoveled $1 billion out the door to two California-based electric car manufacturers. Fisker Automotive got a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy; Tesla got $465 million. President Obama has hailed such subsidies as a “historic opportunity to ensure that the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks are made in America.”

Alas, like Solyndra, these loans are turning out to be historic opportunities to line the pockets of major campaign fundraisers. Fisker investors, including Al Gore himself, have donated more than $1 million to political campaigns – primarily Democrats. Tesla, for its part, has financial backing from a fundraiser who bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for the President’s campaign; Tesla’s CEO is also a major Democratic donor who has poured money into Obama’s campaign coffers.

Tesla’s next vehicle is expected to list for $57,400. Fisker’s car, already a year behind schedule, will cost $97,000. “We have a history of losses and we expect significant increases in our costs and expenses to result in continuing losses for at least the foreseeable future,” says Tesla’s most recent quarterly filing.

And neither firm has created many jobs. So far, approximately 100 workers are employed by Fisker in Wilmington, Del., while an additional 500 are actually assembling the cars in Finland. Tesla’s record is only slightly better. Even these few jobs may be illusory: studies of Europe’s green job experiments have found that each new green job destroys several other jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Last summer, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, sounded alarm bells about potential abuses in the issuance of green-job loans, warning that the Obama administration’s Department of Energy had “treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others.” Congress should investigate carefully how so much taxpayer money was spent so poorly on behalf of so many donors.

But there are larger lessons from this sorry story. First, the U.S. government shouldn’t be playing venture capitalist. It’s not merely that government bureaucrats are bad at picking winners. The very process invites cronyism and outright corruption.

Second, as Fisker’s decision to manufacture in Finland makes clear, the U.S. economy is not struggling for lack of government spending. It is struggling for lack of competitiveness. Instead of President Obama’s doomed strategy of creating jobs that are good for the environment, we need a strategy to create an environment that is good for jobs.

My plan for jobs and economic growth does just that, with the goal of ensuring that no advanced manufacturer ever sees Finland as a better place than the United States to set up shop. For one thing, the plan reduces the burden imposed by government: It makes our tax code simpler, flatter, and fairer, and places our corporations on equal footing with global competitors. It also scales back the regulations that cost us nearly $2 trillion per year and make our economy a singularly unattractive place to do business.

For another, the plan ensures that our workforce can outcompete any other: It reforms our labor laws so that workers and employers can build up successful businesses without interference from union bosses trying to build up their own power. It replaces our tangled web of ineffective federal retraining programs with a state-based system that lets individuals learn on-the-job skills. And it expands legal immigration so that the best and the brightest from around the world can choose to live, and work, and create jobs right here in America.

Having worked and created jobs in the real economy, I understand the policies we must pursue to make the United States the best place in the world to do business. It is these policies, not President Obama’s handouts to politically connected investors with politically correct business ideas, that will produce a genuine economic recovery.

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