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EDITORIAL: Electric dreams

Ending ‘green’ subsidies would be the most effective campaign-finance reform

- - Monday, December 9, 2013

Liberals think they know better. To the progressive, there is no undertaking that couldn't be made better with governmental direction and the collective advice of an ivory tower full of experts. When it comes down to it, they think Americans are too dumb to know what's in their own best interests, and thus someone must tell them what to do. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently put it, "It takes the government (to make a market)."

A new Reason Foundation report demonstrates how this idea neglects the political reality. Politicians don't do what's in the public's best interests; they do whatever is in the politicians' best interest. Public servants are supposed to be above such considerations, but it rarely works out that way. Public-sector employees take political pressure into account when making decisions because it's human nature that they want to please their boss, punish opponents and reward friends.

"Stimulating Green Electric Dreams" examines the link between taxpayer-funded subsidies and the bureaucrats who decide where to spread the money. There is no free market for intermittent power sources such as solar and wind that stop functioning at sundown or when the breeze stops. In its quest to create something that is inherently unsustainable, government will prefer to hand taxpayer cash to lobbyists, investors and political contributors rather than to entities trying to succeed on their own merit. It's a recipe for cronyism.

During his last re-election campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bragged about securing money for solar and geothermal projects in his state of Nevada. Backers of the project also happened to be major contributors to Mr. Reid's campaign. Intended or not, this sends the message that friends of Harry will be rewarded at taxpayer expense.

The rewards are substantial. Al Gore and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson were stakeholders in a company called Abengoa, which spent $1.6 million on well-connected lobbyists to obtain a $2.8 billion federal loan. SoloPower, according to a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report, obtained a loan guarantee from the federal trough by trading on its connection to the Democratic National Committee's 2008 "Obama Victory Fund."

Rather than make choices to do what's right for the nation, most politicians are focused on what's best for the next election cycle. As such, the best way to implement campaign-finance reform wouldn't be an unconstitutional scheme to limit the ability of Americans to participate in the political process. Instead, the most prudent and effective reform would cut off access to the federal spending spigot. Special interests won't ply politicians with campaign contributions or hire high-priced lobbyists if they aren't going to get anything in return.