Thursday, September 29, 2011


Merryle Rukeyser once said on his son’s long-running “Wall Street Week” TV show that a liberal is someone who’s liberal with other people’s money.

The half-billion dollar loan dished out by President Obama’s Energy Department to the politically connected and now bankrupt Solyndra Corporation is a potentially criminal case-in-point.

Rukeyser’s aphorism was given additional weight by Professor Arthur Brooks’ 2006 book, “Who Really Cares,” a scholarly investigation that showed conservatives, on average, give much more time and money to charitable activities than their liberal counterparts—a disparity that holds true even when one excludes contributions made to churches.

A corollary to Rukeyser’s definition is that liberals are also more likely to lobby for taxpayer funding with the taxpayer’s own money.

A few months ago I noted that a local PBS station was using its government-subsidized broadcast time to encourage viewers to support continued Congressional funding for public broadcasting. Now I see that Riverside County has a court web page encouraging county residents to petition the Governor “to restore vital funding to the court and provide more judges to hear cases.”

This taxpayer-funded lobbying effort even includes sample letters addressed to Governor Brown and state legislators that contend Riverside County needs twice as many judges than it currently has.

I have no problem with arguments in favor of increased funding for the court system, but that a government web page is doing the lobbying poses a serious issue—namely, whether government officials and government-sponsored groups should be using government funds to solicit the general public for more funding.

The fact that even conservative Riverside County has taken up this dubious practice isn’t a good sign.

Both politicians and ordinary citizens are free to make arguments about how public money should be spent. But putatively non-political government officials and institutions shouldn’t themselves solicit the general public for funds.

A similar problem arises when public employee unions use their political clout to sweeten employment benefits—a common scenario where government employees sit on both sides of the bargaining table without a clear bottom line to stiffen the spines of pliant politicians.

This negotiating imbalance is one of the reasons even FDR said, “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” He added that “militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.”

Unfortunately, the militancy recently exhibited by public workers in Wisconsin now matches the audacity of both public and private groups for whom government has become a gigantic trough of other people’s money.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Conspicuously absent from President Obama’s “jobs speech” last week was the “green jobs” refrain that punctuated prior rhetorical efforts.

Looking on the bright side, perhaps the President’s economic team has finally gotten it through their skulls that quixotic wind and solar investments have been a bust.

The more likely reason “green jobs” didn’t accompany “pass this bill now” in the President’s solo rendition of “Son of Stimulus” was the recent bankruptcy filing of California-based Solyndra—a solar energy company that stiffed around a thousand former workers just two years after receiving a cool half-billion dollars of government assistance.

To make this environmental disaster even more embarrassing for the administration, FBI agents carted away documents from the company’s Fremont headquarters in order to investigate possible hanky-panky.

The political smoke that suggests fire arises from the cozy relationship between the White House and Solyndra—especially the tie with George Kaiser, one of Solyndra’s key backers who donated $53,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign and helped “bundle” thousands more. White House visitor logs also show twenty visits by Solyndra officials and investors, most by Kaiser, between March, 2009, and April, 2011.

Even worse on the appearance-of-impropriety scale, the Obama administration “fast-tracked” the company’s loan application to the Department of Energy in 2009—a decision later criticized by the Government Accountability Office.

Back in the giddy days of Stimulus 1.0, President Obama specifically pointed to Solyndra as a model of green-energy success. At least Mr. Obama was correct on one score. Solyndra is a “model”—of government cronyism and market manipulation.

According to Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, “Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion.” In plain English this verbal smokescreen means that today’s solar market is largely a function of government subsidies.

“Excess supply” (as was the case with mortgages and housing in the prior decade) refers to government policies, in the U.S. and abroad, that have created another bubble that’s in the process of bursting. Case in point: Two other solar companies, SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar, filed for bankruptcy just weeks before Solyndra.

Meanwhile, according to government sources cited by the New York Times, other Obama “green jobs” programs in the Golden State have netted less than 1,300 jobs at the price of over 150 million dollars.

Still, Malibu-minded Congressman Henry Waxman, along with Gov. Brown and Sacramento’s ruling Democrats, continue to pursue the illusion of “green jobs”—a fantasy that even a New York Times piece suggests is a very expensive “pipe dream.”

Get the shovel ready—not for jobs, but to clean up the mess.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Many moons ago ABC’s Sam Donaldson compared the French and American Revolutions—implying that the two events were historical twins. Even then I knew enough history to conclude that this simplistic equation was bogus.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know just how wrongheaded the comparison was until I read Ann Coulter’s recent book “Demonic”—in particular the chapters about the slaughter of over half a million souls that occurred in France from 1789 to 1794. (By comparison, the religion-steeped American Revolution had about 20,000 casualties—half disease-related—and none of the mob-inspired butchery that was common in France.)

Coulter contends that the details and philosophical motivation for this bestial continental bloodbath aren’t more widely known because France’s statist revolution was compatible with the beliefs and propaganda methods of modern leftists. American universities, of course, are seminaries for such ideas, and attachment to these dogmas is so fervent that prominent conservatives on campus are often, in mob-like fashion, shouted down or even, on occasion, assaulted.

Coulter notes that neither Cornell (in 2010-2011) nor UCLA had courses specifically on the French Revolution. I can add that none of my numerous graduate courses in intellectual history came close to presenting the depths of atheistic depravity exhibited in Coulter’s chapters on the revolution and Terror.

I perused UCSD’s offerings on the topic and found a single course taught by a professor whose primary interests are gender and labor relations. The absence of student reviews on the web suggests that the course (buried deep in the university’s multicultural offerings) didn’t light anyone’s fire.

Coulter also observes (as David Horowitz did earlier in his book, “The Professors”) that many violent radicals from the 60s ensconced themselves in positions in higher education —among them Obama associates and former “Weathermen” Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

In California Coulter mentions former Black Panther Angela Davis (long time Professor at UC Santa Cruz) and Ron (Maulana) Karenga. Karenga, a former 60s radical and inventor of Kwanzaa, was able to go from prison for physically assaulting two women to Chairman of Black Studies at Cal State Long Beach in a mere fourteen years. That’s quite a tenure track.

Throw in the fact that UC-system employees were candidate Obama’s number one source of funds in 2008 (contributing $1.64 million or 50 times the amount given to McCain) and you have several exhibits favoring Coulter’s thesis that modern leftists often try to achieve their goals not by rational argument but by the exclusion of opposing views.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ recent “go to hell” condemnation of Tea Party Americans further reinforces Coulter’s point about the left’s mob-baiting mentality.