During the closing of this week's "Young Guns" podcast, I mentioned my irritation with Elizabeth Warren's statement to a crowd in Massachusetts that "there is nobody is this country who got rich on his own."
As I said on the podcast, my frustration was that Warren then used public goods like infrastructure and police services to make the argument that we should increase taxes on the wealthy, ignoring the huge amount of federal spending that falls outside of that category. Picking the gripe du jour, I noted that I couldn't stomach this argument as long as we're giving half a billion dollars in loan guarantees to Solyndra.
Defenders of projects like Solyndra (I don't think the project itself has any advocates left these days), are keen to note that government has a role to play in scientific innovation. I'm not averse to that argument given the positive externalities involved, but funding groundbreaking R&D is much different than subsidizing a consumer product that generates demand insufficient for viability in the free market. That's why it breaks my heart that we were subsidizing Solyndra's road to perdition while this was happening:
The powering down of Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator on Friday marked the end of a quarter-century of U.S. dominance in high-energy particle physics.
The Tevatron, which accelerates and collides protons and antiprotons in a four-mile-long underground ring, has been replaced by the Large Hadron Collider under the French-Swiss border, which began operating in March 2010...
[Fermilab director Pier] Oddone said Europe has outspent the United States by a factor of three, and the United States now has to be very clever and define very carefully how it uses its resources.
"I think we can maintain a leadership position in the world. We are going to not be where we were 30 years ago where we led in every domain of particle physics, but we are going to lead in a narrower domain," he said in a telephone interview.
Europe got the jump on a potentially revolutionary project in the world of particle physics. We got a bankrupt solar company. I'm sure glad we finally got a president whose administration "values science."