Obama’s State of the Union: A Blueprint for Crony Capitalism and Costly Educational Failures

by Hans Bader on January 26, 2011

in Economy, Employment, Energy, Environment, Politics as Usual, Stimulus to Nowhere

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for even more spending on his cronies — what he euphemistically referred to as “investments” in “clean energy technology.” Such spending benefits companies that donate millions to liberal politicians, like GE,  which recently spent  $65.7 million on lobbying to extract special favors from the government.

As the Washington Post notes, GE received massive taxpayer bailouts on special, preferential terms not available to other companies:

General Electric, the world’s largest industrial company, has quietly become the biggest beneficiary of one of the government’s key rescue programs for banks. At the same time, GE has avoided many of the restrictions facing other financial giants getting help from the government. The company did not initially qualify for the program.  .  .But regulators soon loosened the eligibility requirements, in part because of behind-the-scenes appeals from GE.

GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, is the “Chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

The “clean energy” spending Obama wants includes “initiatives aimed at building the renewable-energy sector — which received billions of dollars in stimulus funding.”

This is a bad sign for American workers, because such green jobs programs have wiped out thousands of American jobs in the past.  The $800 billion stimulus package used “green-jobs” subsidies to send American jobs overseas79 percent of those subsidies went to foreign firms, such as an Australian firm that imported Japanese wind turbines, effectively outsourcing American jobs.  (The stimulus package also wiped out jobs in America’s export sector.)  Moreover, some “green jobs” funding actually damages the environment, like ethanol subsidies:  ethanol mandates actually harm the environment, yet the Obama administration apparently considers them to be a “green jobs” program.

Echoing earlier reports that he would advocate “new government spending” on education, Obama attacked the idea of scaling back massive increases in education spending. He called cutting education spending “like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.” Lost in his hyperbole was the fact that America already spends much more per capita on education than most other wealthy industrialized countries, with worse results.  As spending has exploded, college students are spending much less time studying and reading than they used to.

Dumping more money on the educational system is unlikely to spur economic growth, since so many college students learn little in college, are not interested in learning, and only go to college in order to get paper credentials rather than an education. Obama wants all Americans to attend at least one year of college, saying in his address that “higher education must be within reach of every American.”

Those paper credentials are increasingly useless to many who obtain them.  Most people who went to college because of rising college-attendance rates in recent years wound up in unskilled jobs (including 5,057 janitors who have Ph.D’s or other advanced degrees), while tuition skyrockets. (100 colleges charge at least $50,000 a year, compared to five in 2008-09.)  Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation, while Obama seeks to double it.

Colleges are so awash in money that many elite colleges are using it to rapidly expand educational bureaucracies.  For example, Wake Forest University increased spending on administrators by 600 percent.

Unlike other countries, which focus on educating engineers and other economically-productive occupations, America focuses on superficial, ideologically-fashionable liberal-arts majors.  The Obama administration seems more concerned about the gender ratios in college science departments than the small number of Americans who go into science, and is now contemplating caps on the number of male science students under Title IX to promote what it perceives as gender equity.  Such caps would be based on the Obama administration’s faulty interpretation of Title IX.

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