Michael Grunwald | What we really need are more Solyndras

The Solyndra “scandal” is trotted out every few months as part of the  big-vs.-small-government debate in this country, but it is not and never was a  scandal. The federal clean-energy loan program that the infamous solar-panel  maker was a part of was designed to finance risky ventures, and Solyndra was a  reasonable risk: an innovative manufacturer with huge private backing and an  opportunity to transform the industry. But the industry transformed itself  first. Silicon prices plunged, Solyndra’s advantages vanished, and the firm went  bust. It happens. The Bush and Obama Administrations both selected Solyndra from  143 applicants for the program’s first loan, and investigators found no evidence  that political interference made that happen. Yes, a White House official wrote “Ugh” in an e-mail when she heard about the $535 million default. What was she  supposed to write?

But no matter how often independent fact checkers debunk charges of crony  capitalism, Washington Republicans won’t be deterred from pushing a No More  Solyndras Act, vowing to kill the loan program. Mitt Romney is basically running  a No More Solyndras campaign, attacking Obama’s entire green push as a payoff to  donors. Government aid isn’t supposed to guarantee success; subsidized farms and  entrepreneurs with Small Business Administration loans fail all the time.  According to one White House official, some students who receive Pell Grants end  up drunks on the street. Still, Solyndra has become shorthand for Big  Government sleaze.


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