Solyndra: is anybody going to jail? And is that really the point?

If I were cynical, I’d think the New York Times’ Joe Nocera was trying to muddle up the Solyndra scandal. He writes:

If Brian Harrison and W. G. Stover, the two Solyndra executives who took the Fifth Amendment at a Congressional hearing on Friday, ever spend a day in jail, I’ll stand on my head in Times Square.

It’s not going to happen, for one simple reason: neither they, nor anyone else connected with Solyndra, have done anything remotely criminal.

Nocera doesn’t know that, of course. None of us do. We can speculate that something may have been fishy-fishy about the relationship between Solyndra and the White House, which may have led to their $535 million guaranteed loan. But that’s it.

But. Is that really the point of the Solyndra story? Or is it:

  • The high-falutin’ goal of “green energy, green jobs” for its own sake is stupid.

Solyndra is the perfect example of why the environmental insistence on “green jobs” is ridiculous. They got a $535 million loan to manufacture solar panels at a time when energy prices are high, and worldwide demand for energy is growing. And they went bankrupt. In California.

How many “green jobs” did that create?

  • Government “stimulus” spending doesn’t spread money around: it only guides money toward political influence.

That influence could take two tracks: one, the influence of ideological belief; two, the influence of political friendship. Government is not some uber-objective megafont of wisdom: government is people. People making decisions. And people bring their own biases into their decisions whether they know it or not.

Nocera himself points these things out:

The company’s recent bankruptcy … was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so.

Their business model was crap. And:

Undoubtedly, the Solyndra “scandal” will draw a little blood: there are some embarrassing e-mails showing the White House pushing to get the deal done quickly so it could tout Solyndra’s green jobs as part of the stimulus package.

The influence of ideology, political advantage, and, probably, friendship.

Whether anybody ever spends any time behind bars, or has to pay a fine, or spends a hundred hours cleaning up trash on the side of the highway — not at all the point.

We shouldn’t let Nocera — or anyone else — sidetrack the issue with the argument that “nobody did anything criminal.” We should learn and remember: government is just as capable of bad decision-making as any other human-run organization. And probably moreso. It’s not their money on the line, after all.

(Cross-posted at The TrogloPundit.)

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