Cloudy with 100% Chance of Corporate State

It does not appear that Rick Perry is the guy to dismantle our growing corporate state.

The LA Times investigates the big-money culture of Texas politics, which has gotten even bigger and money-er since Rick Perry became governor:

Perry has received a total of $37 million over the last decade from just 150 individuals and couples, who are likely to form the backbone of his new effort to win the Republican presidential nomination....Nearly half of those mega-donors received hefty business contracts, tax breaks or appointments under Perry, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

Perry, campaigning Monday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, declined to comment when asked how he separated the interests of his donors from the needs of his state. His aides vigorously dispute that his contributors received any perks. "They get the same thing that all Texans get," said spokesman Mark Miner.

Nearly half! And this doesn't even include anything about David Nance and the largesse Perry distributes via his $200 million state-managed venture capital slush fund. Doling out political favors in industrial quantities is obviously something that isn't frowned upon by Texas political culture, and Perry has taken it to whole new levels.

Kudos to the LA Times and folks like Kevin Drum for digging this up, but everyone involved should be embarrassed by just how partisan outrage on this kind of thing can be.  The same folks who are rightly upset at Perry actively cheered on Obama as he took ownership of GM away from the secured creditors and handed it to his major campaign supporters in the UAW.  His stimulus program has been a trillion dollar slush fund to pay off nearly every liberal constituency, and while I find the idea of a state-run venture capital fund horrifying, I see no difference here with Obama's green job investments, many of which have gone triends, campaign supporters, and even spouses of prominent administration officials.

As I asked the other day, if the President is really supposed to be our VC in chief (an absurd thought) who in the hell would pick Obama for the job?  As one random example out of my feed reader:

Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare.

McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."

At the same time, heavily subsidized Evergreen Solar is going bankrupt.

Bloomberg News reports that the firm Evergreen Solar will file for bankruptcy and close its operation in Midland, Mich. The maker of solar cells cites over-capacity in the industry, competition from China and fewer government subsidies as contributing factors. According to Bloomberg, the firm has 133 employees worldwide.

Given a Michigan location and participation in a politically faddish industry, readers won't be surprised that Evergreen was the beneficiary of special state subsidies and a local tax break. Specifically, three years ago Evergreen Solar was offered a $1.8 million "refundable" tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. For firms with little or no tax liability, this amounts to an outright cash subsidy, contingent on attaining certain employment and investment milestones. Evergreen Solar's specific tax liability is not public information.

The deal was based on crystal-ball projections from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation using a software program known as REMI, which predicted that an Evergreen deal would create exactly 596 direct and "spin-off" jobs by 2018, producing $18.5 million in new state tax revenue.

The city of Midland also granted property tax abatements worth $3.9 million over 12 years, according to Mlive.com. It's not known how much, if any, of these subsidies and tax breaks were ever collected by the company.

This actually understates the total subsidies, as it ignores subsidies to its customers, incoluding above market geed-in tariffs, to buy the solar panels.

Closer to home, a Tucson solar panel manufacturer that was opened to great fanfare with the help of Janet Napolitano and Gabby Giffords just closed after being open barely 2 years.  They scored some subsidies, got some large government and utility contracts on the promise of local employment, and then packed up shop for China.  Apparently they were attempting to compete in the commodity solar panel market on a strategy of having a higher fit and finish on their product, a product that sits on the roof and no one ever looks at.  Good plan.

PS-  Yes, private investments fail all the time, but they are 1) not using my money, unless I voluntarily offer it and 2) there are real consequences for those who make bad investments

  • Dan

    Perry is a hypocrite of stunning proportions.

    Say what you will about Obama. As I know, many of you believe his policies are driving our economy down the drain (I don't personally agree). Nevertheless, at least with Obama we got what we expected as far as knowing he believed government could offer solutions and be a positive force for good and then acting in ways to advance that vision of our country. Agree with him or disagree; he's never veered away from that philosophy.

    Perry, on the other hand, is far worse. He pretends to be anti-Washington even as he brags about job growth in his state, most of which was brought about by the generosity of Washington. A textbook case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. And also of expecting Americans to be dumb enough not to glance under the hood, which perhaps they are.

    He also talks about beating up the head of the Federal Reserve, which is going way below the belt. Disagree with someone - fine. But don't threaten him. This is typical Texas cowboy swagger that may play well with some of his less sophisticated constituents but that has no place in civilized discourse about the economy and is far from presidential. It kind of reminds me of G.W. Bush and his tendency toward useless and damaging statements like, "Bring 'em on!"

    The ultimate hypocrisy is that Perry, who's talked about having Texas secede from the union, now wants to be president of that very union.

    This guy is a disgrace. He reminds me of the hypocritical but charismatic politician in that great 80's movie (based on a Stephen King novel), "The Dead Zone." In the movie, Christopher Walken, who has ESP, figures out that the politician, who is running for president, is ultimately going to win the election and then get the country into a nuclear war.

    I'm not saying that Perry is going to get us into a nuclear war (though who knows, he seems like the type who's subject to having fits and not being able to control himself), nor am I saying we need Christopher Walken to aim a rifle at him with an intent to kill, as he does in the movie. But it seems clear that Perry would be a very dangerous man to have in the Oval Office.

  • Rob

    Even training for "green energy raters" is rife with cronyism and union politics. It's hard for a small established business to compete with a moving target.

    Read:
    http://blog.contractormag.com/mader/2011/06/29/the-murky-insider%E2%80%99s-world-of-washington-energy-efficiency-politics/

  • Dr. T

    Perry, in 2007, issued an executive order for all girls in the sixth grade to be vaccinated against HPV (human papilloma virus). The vaccine had just been approved by the FDA, but there were no long term studies of its effectiveness and no studies of side effects in children. Perry received donations from Merck (maker of the vaccine), and some of his staff had ties to Merck. The Texas legislature, outraged by this mandate, overturned it. Now, he has twisted the story: he admits the decision was wrong, but he uses this as an example of how he listens and changes his opinion when presented with new information. Except for the fact that Perry ranted about the legislators overturning his edict and essentially said they were killing women.

    Perry also is on The Agitator's bad guy list for his refusal to let DNA testing be completed on an iffy death row case and for not stopping the execution of a man who almost certainly did not commit the crime that put him on death row.

    This man needs to be knocked out of the running quickly.

  • Dan

    Dr. T,

    I think I read about the wrongful execution you were referring to. Was it the man whose children died in a house fire? That was one of the most heartbreaking cases I have ever heard. Apparently the fire "expert" who testified that it was arson had no idea what he was talking about and hadn't even done a thorough inspection. A second analysis, unfortunately done after the "killer" was on death row, revealed that electrical wiring had caused the fire, but Perry apparently didn't care about new evidence; he just wanted to make sure the execution took place. And it did.

  • SolarKitty

    Massachusetts had the biggest loss in terms of subsidies. It is interesting to note that Evergreen apparently had "efficient" technology and had moved production to China yet still couldn't compete (this is not to say that China is not subsidizing Chinese manufactures, it does). Perhaps they weren't the well run company they convinced many they were. http://articles.boston.com/2011-08-16/business/29893202_1_million-and-debts-solar-projects-bankruptcy-filing

  • ErisGuy

    "community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice" "Evergreen was the beneficiary of special state subsidies and a local tax break. "

    Think these people will ever learn their purpose is to be tools to obtain government funds, not for their causes, but for leeches?

    "It’s been a very slow and tedious process. It’s almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to."

    Gales of riotous laughter. Not for the first time even in Seattle. People blinded by receiving money for their pet projects never learn and never care that the primary beneficiaries are bureaucrats and embezzlers.

    "He reminds me of the hypocritical but charismatic politician in that great 80′s movie 'The Dead Zone.'"

    That's keeping things in perspective. If Perry can control the weather as Stillson can, they maybe we should elect him.

    "The ultimate hypocrisy is that Perry, who’s talked about having Texas secede from the union, now wants to be president of that very union."

    Yeah. He's almost as bad as those abolitionists in New England prior to the Civil War, who did the same thing. Talked a lot, but never seceded.

    I'd be disappointed if there were a Texan, Virginian, or Pennsylvanian so dead to liberty that they didn't dream of seceding.

    "he’s never veered away from that philosophy."

    Indeed. Pity it's so unAmercian, illiberal, inhuman, and delusional. With fine examples of this 'philosophy' in Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia, the USSR, etc. why does anyone support it doesn't personally profit from it. Good thing they openly believe in vile evils--no one can accuse them hypocrisy.

  • perlhaqr

    “The jobs haven’t surfaced yet,” said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

    “It’s been a very slow and tedious process. It’s almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There’s been no real investment for the broader public.”

    Hey! When you stole that money, you were supposed to give it to us, not those guys!

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    >> be a positive force for good and then acting in ways to advance that vision of our country.
    >> ...
    >> Agree with him or disagree; he’s never veered away from that philosophy.

    Ya mean like when he attacked Libya with an utter an complete disregard for the (by him personally) espoused role of Congress in that process, claimed he had 60 days, then ignored it when THAT passed...?

    If Bush had done anything like that, the media's hue and cry would have been an endless cacophony of doom. The Big 0 does it, and the silence from the media has been amazing even for them, marking the level of indiscriminate partisanship as slightly past the level needed to destroy and permanently fuse an industrial grade bogon flux meter.

    Dan, your comments are triggering my bogon flux meter into the red zone, so I'm turning it off.

    Let us know when you get your head far enough out of The Big 0's rectum far enough to look around and see what the real world looks and smells like, in place of that stuff you've apparently become quite used to.

  • Doug

    I'm no math whiz, but even *I* can see a major flaw in this piece of investigative fluff. It doesn't say that ALL of this cherry-picked group of Perry contributors got something in return. It says HALF of them did. Which then begs the question "were there other contracts awarded to people who did NOT contribute to the Perry machine?" One would certainly presume so. What percentage of THEM got contracts?

    Isn't this like dealing half of a deck of cards and finding that half of the dealt cards is red and the other half is black, then concluding that the remaining cards in the deck must be all red?

    Where the hell is the analysis of ALL contracts awarded to companies by the state of Texas under Perry's watch? Cherry picking 75 contracts and drawing broad conclusions from them? How many contractors are there in Texas who possess the ability to store low-level radioactive waste? This isn't like pouring driveways for government buildings.

    There were no other multi-million dollar contracts awarded in Texas to companies that did NOT contribute to Perry's slush fund? I find that hard to believe.

    This is one of the worst examples I've seen of a child-like conclusion based on very slanted "evidence." I'm not defending Perry --- there's probably something to this. I'm attacking the crappy math. I can't believe Coyote, a stickler for math, would swallow this one hook, line, and sinker.

    And a P.S. to Dan: is not hanging responsibility on Sarah Palin for the Arizona shootings "hitting below the belt"? The last person they accused of being "too dangerous to be in the Oval Office" succeeded in killing the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War. Yeah, we can't have anyone with gonads sitting there again, can we?

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    ... not to suggest support for Perry. Just noting that Dan's using it as a stealth defense for The Big 0, aka President Downgrade, reeks of high-energy bogons.

    Is Perry scum? Quite possibly. I don't plan to vote for him in the primaries, so with any luck, it won't matter, he'll be the Howard Dean/Gary Hart of this election cycle.

    Is Obama scum? Beyond any shadow of a doubt.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    On the solar front -- Dr. Perry, over at Carpe Diem, notes two more:

    ================================================================
    "Peak Solar" Hits Tennessee as Grant $$ Run Out
    Update: "Peak solar" hits Oregon as well.
    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/08/peak-solar-in-tennessee-as-grants-run.html
    ================================================================

    The future's so bright....

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    Actually, read the comments section there, it has other riffs on Warren's pieces, as well as a lot of other delicious tidbits.

  • Dan

    ErisGuy:

    Apparently, Perry's statement about seccession of Texas doesn't bother you. Fine. But I can just imagine the outcry we'd hear from some quarters if Obama had ever suggested that Illinois secede. The GOP would have had a field day, saying it's more proof that Obama is "anti-America" and not a "real" American. So much hypocrisy.

    Suggesting a state secede and that the union break up is a treasonous action. For this alone, Perry should not be considered a serious candidate.

    On the other hand, if Texas seceded, I think that would actually help the country, especially if it took along some of its southern neighbors. The new entity could have no regulations aside from the 10 Commandments, teach creationism in the schools, bring back state segregation laws (don't laugh - some, like Rand Paul, see no constitutional basis for decisions like Brown vs. Board of Education) and execute prisoners without bothering the rest of us, who want to live in the 21st Century, not the 19th.

  • Ted Rado

    Maybe we should just succumb and ltt DC run our lives day and night. I wouldn't have to think, just follow givernment mandates. Apparently, some think that such an arrangement would be a good idea. George III is starting to look better all the time if this crap keeps up.

  • Benjamin Cole

    The Sunday NYT also had a story, and it spoke of not one but two TX state funds Perry set up that give money to start-ups and tech companies. Picking winners. Additionally, state pension funds are being pressured (this happens in every state).

    On one level I find this repulsive, for all the obvious reasons. On another level I wonder if Far East nations have not boomed as they do align government wit business. The point of government is to help, not hinder business.

    Like Coyote says, I don't know all the answers.