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Sep 14 / thomas.krafft

Why Solyndra should be every American’s concern… not just another blame game.

There’s a story today on Huffington Post about the Solyndra solar company bankruptcy, which focuses on the increasing attempts by both left and right to blame each other for that company’s failure. Democrats can now point to the fact that Solyndra was chosen for loan consideration by President Bush’s team and his Energy Policy Act of 2005. Republicans of course are looking to pin the failure squarely on President Obama, because it went bankrupt this year.

Sadly, yet predictably, this is another distraction from a truly serious issue. Rather than trying to pin blame on one party or another, we would be better served by our representatives and the Press, if they simply compare the story of Solyndra’s failure, and the struggling American solar industry as a whole, with any solar company and the solar industry which is growing in China today.

Solyndra (and three other major solar companies) failed because all the U.S. did was give them a loan and a pat on the back. The downfall of this company points directly to the way we (America) supported this effort, as compared to other countries. Today, the comparison will be made with China, because they’re the ones who developed better and cheaper solar technology in just the few years since Solyndra opened its doors, which most directly led to the company’s declining sales and ultimate failure. The U.S. solar industry has been trying mostly on its own to lead the world, innovate and develop new and better technologies, and yield greater rewards and revenues for them, American companies generally and the country as a whole.

In China, the government decided to build and support an entirely new solar industry in just the past few years. They did this through not just loans to small businesses, but serious government and private funding and investment, and spending (yes, government spending) to sponsor and fund serious scientific study and expert research which led directly to the development of leading edge technology (or at least products that beat all their competitors’). The Chinese government identifies solar along with countless thousands of opportunities for their manufacturing, industry, enterprise, and technology sectors, and then puts resources into supporting them. China studies their competition, and then does whatever it takes (including government investment) to beat all competitors.

No, it’s not a fair playing field – but that’s the game. China puts its businesses and national interests ahead of everything else. Aren’t we supposed to be doing that here? Or does “free market” mean that we allow the USA to fail as a whole, as long as individual corporations continue doing well for themselves?

Most people have no idea that China developed a 100 year plan just before 1980, which they review and adjust at 5 and 10 year intervals, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the nation of China achieves financial, military, industrial and scientific superiority over all other nations. Period. We’re nearly 40 years into China’s 100 year plan, and in that short time they’ve already become the world’s primary manufacturer, are nearing the top financial and economic position, and oh, by the way, the world’s largest armed military force.

Try forgetting for a few seconds that they’re a communist county (it’s easy to get distracted by that topic, rather than the business focus of this piece), and remember that the primary objective of most nations is to thrive and prosper, particularly in this new world economy, regardless of their political system (with a few exceptions including North Korea, and look how they’re doing these days). China has taken this lesson (which we taught them) to heart, and has serious implications for America unless we grow our industry and start innovating on a scale at least comparable, if not better than the hundred+ nation-states out there who are trying to beat us at our own game right now.

Here’s another shocker: In 5 to 10 years, China will be the top economic power in the world. That’s a game-changer with huge (not good) impacts on America and our standard of living. Meanwhile, politicians here seem completely oblivious. We need to invest in future opportunities, and not just the companies run by the biggest campaign contributors. And that means protecting our own markets, and businesses, AND anyone who works for them too. We’ve lost our competitive edge. Everyone knows it, except us.

I’m sorry to say, the current parties, Democrat, Republican and Tea Party, do not represent in any way the reality of what America needs today, even though the right in particular is very good at making a lot of people think they do.

As an aside, I was amazed to hear the major applause points during the last GOP debate… Most of the things people were applauding would actually leave them completely vulnerable if enacted, with further declining wages and absolutely no “safety net” whatsoever. They were talking about no social security, no federal government, no health care of any kind to anyone who can’t pay for it themselves. And the audience applauded. The panel talked about how all spending is bad, and Gov. Perry even made up a claim that the stimulus created no jobs. The audience applauded again. But sorry, Rick (and anyone who believed him). A half dozen reputable accounting/number crunching firms confirmed the stimulus has created/saved up to 2.5 million jobs.

I’ve written about this political/marketing phenomenon recently, so won’t take more time to write about it again here, but it’s a disgrace.

Long story short: The government of any country does in fact have a significant role to play in building up the nation, making it globally competitive, AND also helping lift the lives and standards of living for as many citizens as possible. Most of the world knows this. Why don’t we?

To continue ignoring this fact only allows China get further ahead, and the United States of America to fall further behind. Solyndra is just one example of how government can make a difference in business, industry and promote the general welfare – all at the same time…. Or not.