Those pondering the question of where some of the more than $800 billion in stimulus funds spent in 2009 to supposedly boost the economy at the behest of President Obama went got a partial answer today from the Department of Energy.
In testimony before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Gregory Friedman, the DOE’s Inspector General, said that his office had launched more than 100 criminal investigations in probes of the 2009 stimulus spending that emanated from that department. While the Solyndra debacle has garnered a great deal of attention in recent weeks, the problem goes deeper than the bogus activities of just one company. This government crime wave was focused on false submissions and claims as well as fraudulent use of funds. During the course of his presentation Friedman pointed to the fact that, despite what President Obama claimed at the time, that, “in reality, few ‘shovel ready projects’ existed.”
As Politico reports, Friedman’s testimony should make an already shaky Obama administration squirm:
He also offered a critical talking point for opponents of the DOE loan guarantee program, which is the subject of a White House-ordered independent review in light of the failure of solar manufacturer Solyndra after it received a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009.
“The Loan Guarantee Program had not [been] properly documented and as such could not always readily demonstrate how it resolved or mitigated relevant risks prior to granting loan guarantees,” Friedman said.
Friedman’s admissions should shock no one. Whenever the government starts dumping unprecedented amounts of cash into areas of the private sector it is to be expected that corruption will ensue. That is especially true when an ideologically motivated administration besotted with the often-fanciful notion of “green jobs” start cutting corners, as was the case with the Solyndra boondoggle.
The so-called Recovery Act, as Obama dubbed the stimulus poured more money into the DOE in 2009 than it normally was budgeted for in any given year. It got $35 billion in funds that were supposed to be spent on the so-called “shovel ready jobs” that were heralded as they selling point for the whole bill. By comparison, the department only got $27 billion in fiscal year 2011. So it is little wonder this showcase for Obama’s approach to the problem of reviving the economy was hopelessly outmatched when it came to seeing to it that the money wasn’t stolen.
But while Friedman’s relatively small office has started over 100 investigations, so far relatively little of what may have been pilfered has been recovered. He spoke of getting back only $1 million in fraudulent stimulus spending.
This energy stimulus crime wave speaks to two fundamental flaws in the Obama administration’s approach to governance.
The first is sheer incompetence. The looting of the treasury in the name of economic recovery or even green jobs was facilitated by the inability of Obama’s appointees to tell the difference between reasonable projects and those that were frauds. Their inexperience and foolishness also accounted for much of the wastage of money, the final total of which we can only guess at.
The second is the influence of ideology. Obama poured billions into an alternative energy industry not because it was a good bet or would provide good value but because he was ideologically predisposed to believe that “green jobs” could turn the economy around even though there was little if any evidence that this was so.
The Solyndra case and the looting of the treasury by energy charlatans harkens us back to an earlier era of American history when Indian agents, railroad developers or oil speculators did similar damage to the good name of the United States government. While Obama’s high opinion of his presidency is well known, the energy stimulus fiasco actually puts him in the class of Ulysses Grant or Warren Harding. That is not exactly the sort of comparison that will help anyone get re-elected.