Of the $1 billion in clean-energy stimulus money spent since the beginning of September, $850 million has gone to foreign wind companies. It doesn’t take a bunch of experts at a hastily planned “jobs summit” to discover this isn’t the way to bolster employment in America.
Indeed, the 11 U.S. wind farms that received stimulus money from the Treasury have imported 695 of the 982 wind turbines to be installed, creating 4,500 jobs overseas. That’s far more overseas work than the stimulus money has created in the United States.
On Oct. 29, a joint venture of American and Chinese companies unveiled plans for a new $1.5 billion wind farm in West Texas consisting of 240 Chinese-made turbines. The project is seeking 30 percent of its funding in government stimulus dollars. At best, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars will create a grand total of 30 permanent jobs. That’s $15 million for each job if the project gets the expected level of federal funding.
At least with the auto-industry bailout, the federal program was supposed to help a specific U.S. industry, so the feds could argue that investing taxpayer dollars overseas does advance the advertised purpose of the effort. However, in the case of the stimulus spending, there isn’t even such a fig-leaf argument.
Of course, the global economy is critical to the United States. America’s massive exports to the rest of the world support millions of American jobs. Even greater imports into the United States enable American workers to have a much higher standard of living than if every window fan, TV set and T-shirt had to be made within our borders.
However, the decisions behind that global economy are voluntary ones. People who would like to buy American-made sweaters or invest in companies that make their products in the United States are free to do so. Others who would rather make investment decisions based solely on what products are cheapest or best or which investments will have the best return are free to follow their beliefs.
However, when the U.S. government gets in the business of funding electric power plants or subsidizing certain corporations, taxpayers and voters quite reasonably want the government that they fund and control to be run to serve their interests. That means the federal government gets drawn ever deeper into micromanaging American businesses. That’s why the bailouts and the stimulus package couldn’t help but fail to work as advertised and why they were always going to cause more problems than they could ever hope to solve.