Gov­ern­ment has no busi­ness dab­bling in busi­ness af­fairs

The Covington News - - The second opinion - SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN

Just 16 per­cent of vot­ers na­tion­wide be­lieve it was a good idea for the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide Solyn­dra with loan guar­an­tees. The so­lar power com­pany went bank­rupt and stuck tax­pay­ers with the tab for a half-bil­lion dol­lars.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion gen­er­ally has re­sponded to ques­tions about the pro­gram in the way a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm would re­spond to ques­tions about a port­fo­lio loss.

They note that sim­i­lar gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments have turned out just fine and that it’s only fair to look at their port­fo­lio as a whole.

It’s not a bad ar­gu­ment if you be­lieve gov­ern­ment should be­have like a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist. But the Amer­i­can peo­ple soundly re­ject that no­tion. Only 27 per­cent be­lieve it’s ever ap­pro­pri­ate for the gov­ern­ment to make in­vest­ments in pri­vate com­pa­nies.

One rea­son is that peo­ple tend to view gov­ern­ment as a lousy in­vestor. Seventy-one per­cent be­lieve that pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies and in­vestors are bet­ter than gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at de­ter­min­ing the long-term ben­e­fits and po­ten­tial of new tech­nolo­gies. Only 11 per­cent be­lieve gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have a bet­ter eye for fu­ture value.

If the gov­ern­ment pro­vides fund­ing for a project that pri­vate in­vestors refuse to back, 64 per­cent be­lieve the gov­ern­ment money will be wasted.

In ad­di­tion to ques­tions about com­pe­tence, there are con­cerns about cor­rup­tion and crony cap­i­tal­ism. Sixty-six per­cent of vot­ers be­lieve most gov­ern­ment con­tracts are given to the com­pany with the most po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions rather than the one that can pro­vide the best ser­vice for the best price.

Amer­i­cans agree that it’s im­por­tant to de­velop al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy, but pre­cisely be­cause they con­sider it im­por­tant, they are even more skep­ti­cal about gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

Most vot­ers be­lieve free mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion is more likely than gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies and reg­u­la­tion to help the United States de­velop al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy. By a nearly two-to-one mar­gin, vot­ers also be­lieve the so­lar power in­dus­try will be stronger in the long run if it is de­vel­oped by the pri­vate sec­tor and pri­vate in­vestors. Just 31 per­cent be­lieve it would be stronger with the help of gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies and in­vest­ments.

That’s the rea­son vot­ers op­pose gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments in Solyn­dra, di­rect sub­si­dies for Chevy’s Volt elec­tric car and all other forms of cor­po­rate wel­fare.

The cur­rent cam­paign de­bate over Solyn­dra misses all of this. It’s not a ques­tion of whether the Solyn­dra deal was a good or a bad in­vest­ment. It’s a ques­tion of whether the gov­ern­ment should be pro­vid­ing cor­po­rate wel­fare in any form.

Those who mis­tak­enly be­lieve the Solyn­dra is­sue will help Mitt Rom­ney’s cam­paign should keep in mind a cou­ple of very sim­ple facts:

1) By a three-to-one mar­gin, vot­ers be­lieve elected politi­cians rou­tinely pro­vide help to fa­vored com­pa­nies.

2) Seven out of 10 Amer­i­cans be­lieve gov­ern­ment and big busi­ness work to­gether against the rest of us.

In other words, Amer­i­cans be­lieve crony cap­i­tal­ism is a re­al­ity re­gard­less of which party is in the White House.

This is the root cause of much of the frus­tra­tion sweep­ing the na­tion to­day.

Vot­ers don’t want to be se­lect­ing a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist in chief; they want to pick some­one to run the gov­ern­ment. And they want the gov­ern­ment to stop pick­ing win­ners and losers in the busi­ness world.

To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit

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