School for scandal
Ok. After having just watched the fourth breathless "Solyndra" piece on cable TV, I guess I have to just give up and accept that this stupid, trumped up, pseudo-scandal has got the typically braindead press corps all hot and bothered and it's not going away. There's just no end to this nonsense.
So, it's time to get educated on the damned thing because we're going to have to talk about it whether we want to or not. Here's a timeline of events from ThinkProgress, the five biggest lies about Solyndra by Dave Johnson and Joe Conason on Solyndra vs Whitewater.
And here's Kevin Drum's pithy explanation which serves as an excellent starting place:
Basically, Solyndra was working on a solar technology that promised to be cheaper than silicon, and at the time of the loan it looked really promising both to DOE and to private investors. But then the market turned: Silicon prices dropped, and China started producing super low-cost silicon PV. That spelled doom for Solyndra. They had a good idea, but it didn't work out.
In any case, Solyndra is a tiny fraction of DOE's green-energy loan program, and Solyndra's loan guarantees are dwarfed by those of both fossil fuel and nuclear companies, which range into the multiple billions. There was no scandal in the loan process, and there's nothing unusual about having a certain fraction of speculative programs like this fail. It's all part of the way the free market works.
This is one of the many ways the right --- with the help of well-meaning reformers and the press -- have managed to make any kind of government spending a huge risk for anyone who undertakes it. It started with the "fleecing of America" reports, in which stories about the government funding "the sex life of honeybee studies" and the like became common shorthand for government inefficiency and waste. Over time these stories took on a life of their own creating an image of liberal government run amock even to the extent that Bobby Jindahl mockingly referred to "volcano monitoring" as a ridiculous waste of government money.
This problem was obvious when the stimulus was being proposed. The administration was desperate not to have any of the money go to projects that didn't pan out because this kind of hissy fit would be the obvious result. (Remember all the shrieking that some of the money was going to public health programs and fixing the grass on the Washington Mall?) They weren't wrong to be worried and it's actually surprised me that something like the Solyndra failure hasn't come to light earlier. Of course some of the money was going to go to failed projects, particularly when the free market fetishists insist that they go to private enterprise, the very definition of "risky." Nobody bats a thousand and the fact is that the "success" of the program isn't the most important thing about economic stimulus in any case. Getting the money into the economy is.
So this goes, once again, to the problem of right wing tropes being the default standard because liberalism is the ideology that dare not speak its name. If people understood the role of government in economic crises as being something other than "please save us by cutting spending" this would not be the problem that it is. Unfortunately, the entire population has been indoctrinated into this concept (which I recognize is easy to do) and so they are extremely skeptical of something like stimulus to begin with --- and are quite ready to believe that the whole thing is a crooked game.
What makes it most delicious for the Republicans is their ability to manipulate the press into focusing on alleged Democratic corruption (not that it doesn't ever exist, mind you) while successfully obscuring and stonewalling the very serious, high dollar corruption of the GOP. It all works together like a well oiled machine to paralyze liberal action. And the centrists, like vultures, are there waiting to leap on whatever opening either side gives them to portray themselves as the "pragmatic" "moderate" "common sense" alternative, which somehow always seems to end up being that which benefits the wealthy status quo.