March 21, 2012

Is there a war on job growth?

Welcome to the modern Republican Party.

From the moment Barack Hussein Obama was declared the winner of the 2008 Presidential elections, the GOP has been on the move. Who could forget Mitch McConnell’s reaction to Obama’s success and the petulant assertion that the Republican’s “top priority” over the next four years was about making Obama a “one term President.”

Three years have gone by since McConnell uttered those words and the "Party of No" has held true to the course. GOP actions (and inaction) had until recently stalled the economic recovery. A successful campaign of distortion turned everything bad in the world into Obama’s fault.

The 2010 mid-term elections resulted in a new GOP controlled House and a greatly diminished Senate majority for the Democrats, severely compromising the ability of Congress to move any progressive legislation. The drag on economic recovery would continue.

Truth has always been a bit of a stranger in American politics, but the modern GOP has taken this truism to even greater horizons. The misinformation and dirty tricks machine was successful prior to the mid-term elections.

The oft-repeated mantra was that the bad economy was an entirely Obama creation. Questions were raised about the President’s right to hold office, his patriotism, even his religious faith. GOP resistance was framed as a patriotic mission denying an evil President the pleasure of destroying America.

Following the mid-terms, flaunting their new Congressional prowess, GOPers continued to block efforts to rebuild the economy. But these efforts have ceased working, mainly because some of the programs and policies put in pace prior to the mid-terms were actually resulting in modest job creation. In spite of the best Republican efforts the economy was improving. A GOP change in tactics became necessary.

The new complaint eminating from the GOP is the administration’s “economy busting” “crony capitalism,” and “job killing” green energy agenda. After some great successes in casting the now bankrupt Solyndra as epitomic of President Obama’s energy policies, Republicans now are lambasting what they have dubbed “Obamacars.”

Congressional Republicans and FOX News talking heads targeted the Chevy Volt, made by an auto maker saved from bankruptcy by Obama administration policies. The claim was that the vehicle is a fire hazard and economic boondogle.

Unhappy with these characterizations, the electric car industry is fighting back. Bob Lutz, a UC Berkeley business school graduate who championed the Volt when he was vice chairman at GM, wrote in his blog

“…the loony right has its jaws sunk into the Volt with all the stupid determination of a terrier who has locked his teeth into the mailman’s butt. And with the same result: painful, but without any useful purpose.”

The same “loony right” has also targeted Tesla Motors, claiming that grants issued to the upstart electric car manufacturer amount to crony capitalism. Tesla received a $465 million Department of Energy loan but has since dropped pursuit of any further federal loans. They are instead raising private cash. The car maker plans in July to start deliveries of its $50,000 S car, claiming it is on its way to the mass car market.

Ricardo Reyes, a spokesman for Tesla, very gently told the GOP exactly what they are full off...

“We applied during the Bush administration, and we were approved under the Obama administration, so as far as we’re concerned, we at least had a bipartisan relationship for the loan...

We got one of first loans and we used it to build the car that is now going into production in a U.S.-based facility…

I’d like to think we’re pretty much a case study on what the loan program was designed to do.”

It is unfortunate that much of this tactic has been successful... and that jobs have been lost because of it. The GOP managed to taint the renewable energy loan program in spite of the fact that this particular program was started by the Bush administration as an effort to wean America off of imported oil. Now, due to character assassination by the right wing, the formerly bipartisan effort is in jeopardy.

GOP tricksters have pulled the wool over an under-informed electorate, but the efforts likely will not kill the electric car. This Republican led campaign of misinformation has General Motors pissed, and theyre doing something about it. GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has complained about the political atmosphere that surrounds the Volt.

“Sometimes I feel bad for President Obama,” he said this month after an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. “This car was designed and committed to well before he was president, and it’s called the ‘Obamacar.’ It’s not the Obama car. I’m proud and I’m pleased that he thinks highly of it, but it’s all on us. It’s not a political issue.”

The automaker accused Republicans and the right-wing media of hyping claims that the car caught fire during testing.  1,300 jobs were lost at the Volt plant due to GOPer posturing and mischaracterizations, even though there has never been a fire except in one in a controlled testing environment. A battered test vehicle burned hours after a crash test, blamed on test workers neglecting to properly secure the wrecked vehicle.

On March 1 GM opened an unprecedented campaign to re-introduce the Volt in California, the biggest U.S. auto market. Sales are expected to be brisk and the company hopes to re-start manufacturing once inventory levels drop. In spite of the GOP, people will be going back to work.

For the GOP it has never been about job creation, the economy, helping the environment, creating stability in the financial markets, making sure Wall Street never again melts down, jobs, budgets, controlling the debt, or paying off our deficits – that was just smoke and mirrors.

For Republicans it is all about ensuring Obama is a one term President... economy be damned.