- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In his news conference on Tuesday President Obama explained that his budget proposal contains “a whole bunch of stuff” aimed at improving the grim employment outlook. This bunch of stuff includes infrastructure proposals such as mass-transit projects and bullet trains, which the president claims “would create millions of jobs around the country.” He also places hope in research and development that will “have the potential for creating job growth in, you know, industries of the future.” 

This is little more than rehashing of the “winning the future” (a.k.a. WTF) theme that made its debut in last month’s state of the union speech. Mr. Obama’s budget remarks echoed his longing for a “Sputnik moment,” and like that early Soviet satellite, this massive spending proposal is unlikely to survive as it begins its descent to planet Earth. 

His plan is devoted to propping up an allegedly emerging industry. Mr. Obama has pushed programs for green energy, green technology and green jobs, all of which end up in the red. Mr. Obama’s vision of the future is filled with super magnets, everlasting batteries, carbon-fiber windmills and shiny solar panels. These items share several common features. They tend not to be profitable, they don’t live up to the promises of the corporate-insider proponents and in many cases are not really green at all. They simply trade one set of environmental challenges for another. 

Even if the technologies worked perfectly, they would not necessarily result in a net gain in employment, as significant leaps are highly disruptive. They create many new career opportunities but close off others. For example, the rise of automobiles required thousands of mechanics to keep them running but killed blacksmithing, which used to be a major career field. If solar panels and windmills could somehow create cheap, sustainable energy for America, what would happen to the workers in the oil and coal industries? 

Costly government programs destroy as they create. Mr. Obama’s beloved $53 billion high-speed rail projects – all of which will hemorrhage money – would at best take passenger traffic away from airlines, meaning more work for conductors but less for flight attendants. That’s not counting the tens of thousands of jobs lost as $53 billion is extracted from the private economy to bankroll the fanciful dream of effortless travel conceived by the administration. 

The largest hurdle in the way to this techno-future is Mr. Obama himself. He has fostered one of the most hostile business and long-term investment climates in American history. His gut instinct is to create more government, more regulation and more controls, none of which foster innovation. The country needs more Henry Fords and Thomas Edisons, but instead we get unelected czars, overzealous regulators and preachy activists who think capitalism is the problem, not the solution. Mr. Obama’s repeated invocations of a gee-whiz future in which new discoveries solve America’s present-day problems is starting to sound a bit like a belief in magic. 

Future discoveries and developments will change our lives for the better, but Mr. Obama will have nothing to do with it. The life-changing inventions yet to come will spring from the minds of individuals inspired by a particular type of genius. This special form of creative intelligence is foreign to the cheerleader for government control and regulation. The innovative spirit is not something that can be conjured by spending borrowed government money.


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