When you're the president and Exhibit A in one of your centerpiece economic-development plans turns into a huge disappointment, the fallout is likely to be intensely negative. And we're not talking here about the $800 billion economic-stimulus program that President Obama launched in 2009.
Instead, it's the president's much-vaunted "green-jobs" strategy. And the brand under fire in this situation is Solyndra, a California-based solar-panel manufacturer that last week shut its doors and is now filing for bankruptcy protection despite receiving a $535-million federal loan guarantee and about $1 billion in venture capital.
The company, based in Fremont, Calif., was the first to receive funds under the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program for the clean-technology industry. Last year, President Obama visited Solyndra (its biggest US solar-panel contract: PepsiCo's Frito-Lay plant in Modesto, Calif.) and touted it for creating jobs. But facing competition from larger panel-makers, including some in China, Solyndra began to shrink almost before its new factory was built.
The climax of Solyndra's woes is not a good thing for the company or its employees, of course, but it also couldn't come at a worse time for the president. As he prepares for his "jobs speech" to Congress and the nation next Thursday, Obama has been struggling to find persuasive rhetoric and realistic solutions for America's unemployment problem.
At the same time, Obama continues defending his penchant for promoting "green jobs" and renewable energy aid against Republican criticism of the strategy as expensive and ill-advised "industrial policy," and also questions about whether Solyndra in particular was the right recipient for such a huge loan.
Solyndra's demise, due to burning up the federal loans it received on a state-of-the-art robotic production facility, will lead to the layoff of 1,050 employees. And it certainly won't help the future-employment prospects of a solar-panel president, with White House officials now standing accused of inappropriate intervention in the $535 million loan guarantee to the failed solar startup.
Pressed on Solyndra's collapse, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters "that's the way business works" (at top) — your thoughts?