The latest developments in the Solyndra scandal are troubling. The government asked the company to delay its layoff announcement until Nov. 3, 2010 — one day after the 2010 elections. A Department of Energy political appointee was closely involved in promoting approval of Solyndra’s government loans, and happened to be married to an attorney whose firm represented Solyndra. And these stories of corruption are headlines only because the Department of Energy approved changes to the government loan agreement that left taxpayers on the hook for a half-billion dollars while Solyndra’s private investors get repaid first.
Recent testimony by Energy Secretary Steven Chu raised more questions than it answered. The real questions we should all be asking are: Why is our government handing out cash to bail out wealthy investors, and can we afford it any longer?
If the Occupy movement and the tea parties should agree on one thing, it’s this: Government favoritism and sweetheart deals for corporate America have to stop.
Real capitalism rewards risk and punishes bad decisions. Crony capitalism rewards political connections and bails out bad decisions.
Unfortunately, Solyndra isn’t the only story of government favoritism for big energy special interests. Billions of dollars in loans, grants and tax breaks flow to energy companies, from the greenest to the dirtiest, every year.
In these tough times, with hard budget cuts on the table, taxpayers can’t afford to support companies like Solyndra, or other energy companies; the Solyndra bailout was just a drop in the bucket compared to overall energy subsidies. It’s time for Congress to eliminate these energy company subsidies. Doing so would save billions, money we need for real priorities.
With the current pressure to control spending, Congress has an opportunity to change the way government does business, and spend our dollars on real priorities instead of subsidies for energy companies.
Eliminating energy company subsidies could take a serious bite out of the deficit; not a silver bullet for our government spending problems, but a serious step toward the overall solution we need. The time is long overdue for energy companies to make a profit on their own without handouts from the government.
Before we have another Solyndra, it’s time for the government to focus on real priorities and stop subsidizing energy companies.
(Daniel J. Flaherty is a recent graduate of The University of Montana School of Law. He currently practices at Flaherty Law Office in Great Falls.)