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SOL Stimulus Anniversary

Wednesday March 19th, 2014   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 8:15am PDT   •  

sol-grotto_200The media love anniversary stories, but last month the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s stimulus package slipped by without much fanfare. Taxpayers might recall how, in 2008, spending on the order of $800 billion was urgently called for and delivered. But it failed to stimulate much economic growth.

In the last three months of 2013 the U.S. economy expanded at 3.2 percent, down from 4.1 percent in the previous quarter. The growth rate for all of 2013 was 1.9 percent, down from 2.8 percent in 2012, not exactly something to crow about. Obama’s stimulus package did help increase the national debt from $10.6 trillion to 16.7 trillion in late 2013. But that’s hardly something to commemorate, and a contrast to other federal spending programs.

During the Great Depression the nation spent $49 million, some $833 million in current dollars, on the Hoover Dam, which President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated in 1935. The dam is still there, generating 4.2 billion kilowatts of power per year. During the 1950s President Eisenhower launched the interstate highway system, which cost more than $400 billion in current dollars. The highways are still there and Americans are still driving on them.

Recall that Obama’s stimulus gave a federal loan of $529 million to produce the $100,000 Fisker Karma hybrid. Remember too that the car was built not in America by American workers but in Finland by Finnish workers. Then Fisker went bankrupt.

The solar energy firm Solyndra bagged $535 million in loans from the Obama administration but duly went bankrupt, shutting down operations and laying off all employees in August, 2011. The wreckage included, among other things, millions of glass tubes Solyndra used in solar panels.

As we noted, architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello used more than 1000 of the tubes in the SOL Grotto, an “architectural sculpture” at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley. So five years down the road the SOL Grotto is the closest thing to a monument for Obama’s stimulus package.

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March 2014