"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Potemkin President

In the 1920s and 1930s Western journalists were famously duped by Soviet communists who would display for them what became known as "Potemkin villages," seemingly functioning socialist communities that were really staged ruses for their consumption.  

Two years ago today, President Obama famously duped us (and, worse, himself) by showcasing the Potemkin green-energy company Solyndra as an example of how government investment was leading to a brighter, greener future.   Byron York highlights the irony:

Obama was filled with optimism. "The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra," the president said.  "Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot.  But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations.  This new factory is the result of those loans."

"We've placed a big emphasis on clean energy," Obama continued.  "It’s the right thing to do for our environment, it’s the right thing to do for our national security, but it’s also the right thing to do for our economy…When it’s completed in a few months, Solyndra expects to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world."

"It's happening right now.  The future is here," Obama said.  "It's here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future."

Fifteen months later, Solyndra was bankrupt, and that taxpayers' money was lost.

President Obama is at pains to criticize Mitt Romney about his record at the private equity firm Bain Capital.  But, by definition, Romney was only successful because he invested wisely, because he made money for his investors.   If he hadn't made money for his investors, he would have been fired, and we'd never have heard of him.   Where is the evidence that Obama's huge "public equity" investments have been wise?   Where is the evidence that any of them have made money for his "investors," the American taxpayers?  

If Romney had taken $500 million in investors' money, hyped an investment shamelessly, ignored all of the "risk factors" (which publicly-traded companies are required to divulge in their prospectuses), and then lost it all within eighteen months, he would have been sued for securities fraud.  Guaranteed.  

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