"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Too Green to Fail: Crony Capitalism in America

You would have to live in a cave to not know about Solyndra by now. Either that or get your news from MSNBC, were the network has failed to mention the story at all, obviously too busy questioning the sexuality of Michele Bachmann's husband and whether or not the outspoken candidate submits to him. If only MSNBC would submit to facts and cast some sunlight on the Enron-esque collapse of the president's pet energy project.

SolarGate, as some are calling it, revolves around a solar company (no pun intended) that received $535 million from President Obama's Department of Energy as part of the stimulus bill. In this case, the loans were guaranteed, meaning the government has promised to make good on them even if the company can't.

Guess what? The company can't.

Not only that, but Solyndra's loan was fast-tracked for approval by the administration despite red flags about its potential to pay the money back... kind of like those subprime mortgages the government used to guarantee way back in 2007 before the housing sector collapsed and caused the Great Recession. Nevertheless, Solyndra lobbied hard and eventually secured funding for their questionable business plan. According to records, company executives visited the White House at least 20 times before the loan was approved, and newly discovered emails show staffers pleading for the Department of Energy to move quickly so the vice-president could use Solyndra for an upcoming photo-op (NOTE: this could make Biden a potential fall guy for Democrats wishing to revitalize the 2012 ticket).

Since then, the company has been nothing less than a disaster, first canceling its IPO, then closing its factory doors, laying off its employees, and declaring bankruptcy before being raided by the FBI. This, just months after President Obama toured the factory, hailing it as "the true engine of economic growth."

But in case you think this was just another bad decision by an administration famous for bad economic decisions, be aware that Solyndra's private sector investors were offered the loan at a fraction of the interest rate that other companies received from the DOE program. And one of the chief benefactors of this favorable loan was none other than George Kaiser, an Obama donor who raised $50,000 for the president's campaign in 2008. Even worse, the terms of the agreement put the taxpayer on the hook, allowing the Tulsa billionaire's foundation to recoup any of his investment before the government.

All of this would be bad enough if Solyndra was as an isolated incident. It's not. In fact, Solyndra is just the tip of the iceberg, not only an example of failed policy and a waste of a half billion dollars when government debt is discouraging job creation, but part of a bigger pattern of crony capitalism that is emerging with green energy. Incidents of the president's donors receiving loans and grants from the Department of Energy over the past two years are almost too numerous to count. And with the Obama campaign's stated goal of raising $1 billion for 2012, it's no wonder the president is paying back his friends so they can enrich his campaign coffers.

The truth is very little stimulus actually went to help the middle class or small businesses. That's why one trillion dollars later unemployment is still the worst it's been in 20 years. A large chunk of Obama's spending spree is redistributed not among the needy, but among the wealthy and influential, somehow seeming to trickle its way up to the biggest financial backers of the Democrat Party every time.

For the next few weeks, this blog will examine the seedy relationship between the Department of Energy and Obama's biggest donors. Make no mistake. It is a culture of corruption.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

With Big 12 in Turmoil, Is This Baylor's Last Hurrah?

Friday night the Baylor Bears achieved excellence on the football field with a victory over old Southwest Conference foe TCU, which came into Waco ranked 14th in the country and riding a 25-game winning streak. It was a marquee win over a well-respected program on national TV. For the first time in a long time, Baylor football is relevant. Unfortunately, the Big 12 may not be.

Since Texas A&M announced their intention to leave the conference, the college football landscape for Big 12 schools has changed dramatically. It was one thing to lose Nebraska and Colorado, but the Aggies jilting of the conference a mere year after agreeing to the terms that kept it together is back-breaking. Now the Big 12 is left with nine teams, and it's going to be hard to find a school that fits the gaping hole left by A&M's departure.

The Aggies claim they left for the SEC due to the University of Texas' arrogance and the formation of the Longhorn Television network, but the truth is Texas A&M has been crying about Texas arrogance as long as there has been a Varsity football team, and the Aggies flirted with going to the SEC last year before the Longhorn Network even existed.

Now it appears the Big 12 is on its last legs, done in by the pride and hubris of the maroon and white. True, BYU would be an interesting addition and save the conference for at least a few more years. And BYU brings more national exposure than Texas A&M did in terms of television audience. TCU, loser of the thrilling 50-48 finish to Baylor, would also be a desirable addition, but just agreed to terms with the Big East and may not have an out.

Should no marquee university be willing to step in to fill the shoes of the Aggies, the next most likely scenario has Oklahoma bolting for the Pac-12, forcing Texas, which turned down the conference's offer last year (partly because they couldn't entice the Aggies to come along), to reconsider and follow suit. A football landscape that doesn't include TX-OU seems unimaginable, but then again a season without UT-A&M also seemed like a longshot a few months ago.

This leaves the smaller schools of the Big 12 scrambling to find a new home and a way to replace the $15 million they currently receive thanks to their affiliation with a conference that includes Texas and Oklahoma. It is assumed Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, with pressure from the state legislatures, would also get invites to the Pac-12, giving the new superconference 16 teams.

Left behind in the wreckage would be Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Missouri. That's a shame given Kansas' basketball pedigree. And it's a shame given the programs Baylor has built in basketball and football, including a Heisman candidate in Robert Griffin III and a realistic chance to finish second this year in the Big 12.

In other words, 2011 could be Baylor's last hurrah, but don't blame the Longhorns. Texas has used its position of strength to try and keep this conference and its traditional rivalries together. Meanwhile, A&M is jumping ship for a place among the nation's most competitive football programs before they have built anything remotely competitive. Evidence of a premature move by the Aggies includes an 0-5 record in recent bowl games, no BCS bowl appearances, and just one Big 12 title way back in 1998.

You can catch what may be the last possible football game between Baylor-A&M on October 15. Here's hoping the electrifying RGIII solidifies his Heisman Trophy campaign that day and gives Bears fans something to remember for a long time. The future looks less promising.

UPDATE: There is no Big 12 South anymore. I fixed this part of the post.