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The National Journal wrote a nice piece this week on Solar Energy's Sunny Future.  I really did enjoy it.  Push back against the Solyndra hyperbole, an argument in favor of increased investment in solar and an acknowledgment of solar's current limitations.  Well done.

One passage that did catch my eye underscores the great challenge in the United States today in terms of jobs, energy, health care, education and national security.

The United States joined Europe in pledging stiff tariffs against Chinese dumping, but not before dozens of Western solar-panel manufacturers went bankrupt. Beijing, because it can do this sort of thing, responded by buying up some of the excess and built lots of solar farms.
In discussing the solar panel trade war between US, European and Chinese manufacturers, the US (and maybe soon Europe) has imposed import tariffs on Chinese government subsidized solar panels.  I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not.  But I will say that the attitude of "Beijing, because it can do this sort of thing" is an excellent description of why a theoretically advanced nation such as the United States can and does still struggle with the problems of underemployment, under-insurance and under-education.  All problems that bleed into how we live, work and play every day.

What does it mean that "Beijing can do this sort of thing."  In this case, "this sort of thing" means making investments in the present and future of the country - employee training, equipment, research and development - in an efficient way.  Instead of political grandstanding, filibustering and inaction, the Chinese government identifies a goal - ensuring a minimum standard of life for almost 1.5 billion people - then takes action to achieve this goal.  No moralizing, no BS.  Just action.

Yes, this means spending money.  Yes, this means "running the government like a business."  Yes, "running the government like a business" means using debt and equity.

Why can't the United States do this?  I don't read anything in the Declaration of Independence of the Constitution that indicates we can't invest in making the United States a great place to live, work and play.  I don't read anything in these documents to suggest that we must exacerbate income inequality as a primary national aspiration.  I certainly don't think the Founders intended the United States to have no underlying unifying principle at all - that they founded a new country simply to allow its citizens to go it alone.

Quite the opposite.  Beijing can do these things because it sees a great future for itself.  It understands that investment in the future requires investment in today.  It knows its balance sheet can support this investment because it believes in the ability of its infrastructure - education, health care, national defense - to produce the results it needs to be great.

We have this here too.  In abundance.  Instead, we get "professional services" companies and their lobbyists arguing that private companies with only the federal government as a customer arguing that these private businesses can't stay in businesswithout federal legislation protecting six figure salaries for executives.  This is an excellent business model to stay in business today.  It does nothing for tomorrow.

But for some reason, too many people think "we can't do this sort of thing."  I don't understand why we think we can't.  Because we can.

So the big question is why our fellow Americans are uninterested in thinking about tomorrow.

Originally posted to ABlueKansas on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 11:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent diary! (9+ / 0-)

    Far too many younger Americans don't see a manufacturing future for our country, believing its ok for China to violate trade laws and strong arm western economies.

    No. We all have to play by the rules and the US has to defend itself from trade abuse if it wants to protect jobs for our children and grandchildren.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

    by Betty Pinson on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 11:25:15 AM PDT

  •  Beijing can, because people have no say over what (7+ / 0-)

    happens to them or their communities, no democracy gridlock, athoritarians can do what they want, not sure this is good

  •  Beijing also holds summary trials (4+ / 0-)

    for accused persons, and then carts them off by the truckload for immediate execution. The prisoners are taken to a site where they are lined up and shot point-blank in the head. Families are then notified to pick up the bodies. The Chinese government does this because it can do this sort of thing.

  •  Actually the Constitution Does Touch On This (9+ / 0-)
    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    So it's a foundational purpose of our system. And incidentally, in the list, welfare comes before liberty.
    Article. I. Section. 8.

    Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

    If the framers believed the only way to promote the general welfare were to keep government uninvolved in society, there would be no reason to authorize Congress to tax to pay for it. Clearly they expected the people to employ government for promoting the general welfare.

    And I think the Chinese government is in important ways not running government like a business. The way we run businesses any more is to make them hyper profitable in the short run to extract all the wealth possible for owners and management, and in many cases let them go bust long term.

    In China as once in the US, extensive government involvement and regulation have proven required to make business work for the general welfare.

    Why are we uninterested? 45 years of top ownership retraining the people and their public & private leadership.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 11:58:25 AM PDT

  •  solar, like bicyles, drives conservatives mad (8+ / 0-)

    They can't see past the culture war. Solar has to fail or the hippies win. Combine that with an entrenched private oil industry machine and a well oiled game plan of "Government always bad bad baaaaaad" and little lies like Solyndra can control the House of Reps.

    The current Republican Party has internalized losing the culture war and now hates this country and wants to see it fail.

    If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

    by jgnyc on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 12:47:56 PM PDT

    •  Not exactly..... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erratic, Calamity Jean, AoT

      You make the process too conscious. If they could think that clearly, they might not act that way. Rather, they are passionately attached to the "future" of a country that never existed and never will exist, and take action to further the ends of that imaginary country.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 02:57:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not saying it's conscious, it's tribal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica

        as you say, it's a country that didn't exist except a large portion of them yearn for the days of only white people on TV.

        If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

        by jgnyc on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 07:36:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Internalized means it isn't conscious (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jgnyc

        anymore.

        Rather, they are passionately attached to the "future" of a country that never existed and never will exist, and take action to further the ends of that imaginary country.
        You couldn't be any more right. They want some sort of libertarian mythological future where every man is the king of his own fiefdom where the women and poor people(brown and black of course) do the work and he is the "idea man" who does the "hard work" of telling people what to do.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 01:45:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ignoring the first sentence of that quote! (5+ / 0-)
    The United States joined Europe in pledging stiff tariffs against Chinese dumping, but not before dozens of Western solar-panel manufacturers went bankrupt. Beijing, because it can do this sort of thing, responded by buying up some of the excess and built lots of solar farms.
    The Chinese would not have been able to buy up "the excess" if not for their dumping of solar panels on the market to cause the failure of other companies in the first place.   I have no first hand knowledge of wether this was done intentionally, but I have heard this story repeated in regards to other industries enough to believe it's certainly possible.  Regardless, the author is stating that that's what happened.

    This is not a new or evil plan, it's just plain old business. Put simply, the Chinese put their competition out of business by undercutting prices and then bought up the "excess" in a garage sale.  THAT is truly "the sort of thing" that Bejing can do precisely because they are not accountable to anyone.  Solyndra went bankrupt. If they were a chinese company, they might still be around if the government decided they wanted it to be.  The cost to the people is not an issue, if they would even be aware or capable of determining it.

    It's one thing to do big things like the Space Program, interstate highways, the New Deal, etc. but it's quite another to have to get votes for it to happen instead of just deciding to do it.  Let's not even talk about civil or just plain HUMAN rights.   And let's stop the the US is just like China pity party.  It's up to us to change it and we have the "freedom" and the power to do it.  

    The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

    by Back In Blue on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 02:48:27 PM PDT

  •  They can sell goods below the cost of materials. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erratic

    Chinese SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) do not have to make a profit. There is really little expectation or incentive that they will.

    They are tools to produce cheap, (often shoddy) goods, undercut international competition and provide cushy jobs for connected family and friends.

    They also keeps the factories full of otherwise wandering migrant workers and displaced/restless farmers.

    They are profligate polluters, lack safety standards and abuse workers.

    And it is all simply, because they can.

    In this case, "this sort of thing" means making investments in the present and future of the country - employee training, equipment, research and development - in an efficient way.
    If, by "research" you mean "appropriating" another's trade secrets,  throwing untrained workers into dangerous sweatshops to churn out minimal quality goods, then there's a certain efficiency there I suppose.

    In China, consumers test every single light bulb they buy at the sales counter, while in the store, to be assured the bulb will likely work when it arrives home. Such is the "efficiency" of their market.

    Disclaimer: Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorists may vary according to region, definition, and purpose. Belief systems pandered separately.

    by BlackBandFedora on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 05:09:49 PM PDT

  •  Because the wealthy have decided (6+ / 0-)

    They want to extract as much wealth out of our country in preparation for leaving us in the ditch to move to other countries.

    They don't want to invest here any more, because we won't let them pollute any way they want, we want to have decent wages and benefits, and we don't want to be slaves.

    So, they want to impoverish us to the point where we will let them do those things to us again.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 05:45:22 PM PDT

  •  Not "uninterested in thinking about tomorrow," (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, Calamity Jean, erratic, Kevskos, mrkvica

    but uninterested in paying today to make tomorrow better. You know, investing in our future, like we did in the days when public investment was as important as private investment is today, before Reagan.

    •  I'd take it a step further (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, 1BQ

      and say that our leadership and their corporate sponsors are very interested in thinking about tomorrow. In their version of tomorrow, they envision a weakened labor class totally subservient to business rule. They see a bloc of perpetually unemployed workers, whose existence is leveraged into ever decreasing wages and benefits. They also see a culture easily whipped into nationalistic fervor, who see their primary patriotic duties as mindless consumerism at home and the spread of "democracy" abroad. Given that the PR campaign to equate free markets with liberty was a total success at home, the future they envision is one where megacorporations are free to trample any other rights they desire; the "right" to profit is the single, inalienable right in this new world. Taxes and regulations are painted as impediments to this right, and therefore detrimental to freedom. Social programs designed to protect the masses from the predatory few are painted as despotic in nature (these people would probably have called the Magna Carta a "communist" ploy to tear down the job creators).

      I don't think it's a conscious process, but even a cursory examination of US governance (as guided by corporate interests) since Reagan confirms what is happening. The US is essentially the "business" that the vulture capitalists are looking to strip for maximum profit before dumping it for something more lucrative. Right-wing economists and businessmen try to fit real world processes into simple, reductionist models that assume away anything that doesn't conform to their preconceived conclusions. Externalities are only considered when they promote the corporate party line, and in those cases they're overstated. These people genuinely believe, more or less, that "freedom is slavery."

  •  "Why can't the United States do this?" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, mrkvica
    Yes, this means "running the government like a business."...  Why can't the United States do this?
    Simple.  The United States can't do this because if it did black people might benefit from it.  That's pretty much the reason we can't do much of anything these days.  I wish there were more complex reasons.  But more and more, it pretty much comes down to that one simple objective.

    Yep, the US should be run like a business.  Specifically, the lunch counters at Woolworth's in 1960...

    (Don't take my word for it.  Here's Robert Parry touching on the question from a slightly different angle.)

    When you punch enough holes through steerage, the first-class cabins sink with the rest of the ship.

    by Roddy McCorley on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 09:36:49 PM PDT

  •  Our local paper had a reprint of the NY Times (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim P, mrkvica

    story of 4 or 5 days ago about the huge problem that defective solar panels from China is having with the US and European installers.

    Cost cutting and corner cutting and materials substitutions and shoddy labor are making the panels fail at unacceptable rates, and impacting the investments.

    The bankers financing big projects are mad, and investigating.  

    Major projects have gotten settlements from suppliers but can't talk about them because of the terms of the warranty replacement deals.    Some failure rates are as high as 35 percent in the second and third years for units that were supposed to have a 25 year life.  

    May really impact solar in four or five years as they fail in larger quantities, giving the whole industry a bad name.  

    In light of the cheap sulfur filled wallboard, the melamine in dog food, the lead in candies, and other quality issues, it's not like somebody really should have been watching!

  •  America can't do this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronInSanDiego, bobdevo, Kevskos, mrkvica

    Because most Americans are thick as bricks.  We live in a country where large numbers of people don't "believe" in evolution, don't know the sun is a star and generally glorify stupidity as "common sense" as opposed to elitist education.

    Can't get anywhere with a country dedicated to being as utterly dumb as possible

    Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

    by Mindful Nature on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 11:02:53 PM PDT

  •  "protecting six figure salaries for executives"? (0+ / 0-)

    Are you saying executives of large corporations should be payed less than 6 figures?

    Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 11:29:43 PM PDT

    •  When my father was an engineer at Goodrich (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      ( 1940-1975) the CEO made 20X what a line worker made.  The idea of multi-million dollar executives is relatively new.  The managerial classes were upper middle class traditionally . .. not the rich.

      That was reserved for owners.

      I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by bobdevo on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 07:01:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary-they can because they're socialist (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mitchell Jareo, erratic, mrkvica

    This is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of China in the US, and especially on DK.

    I've heard the country described as fascist, authoritarian, state capitalist -- everything except what they say they are, which is "market socialist" or "socialist with Chinese characteristics."

    Socialism took a lot of wrong turns in the 20th century under influence of the Soviets, but the core tenets of socialism are simply state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and key industries, and most land; and planning -- the application of human intelligence to the economy, rather than leaving it to the "invisible hand," which actually doesn't exist, and is sort of like leaving the economy under the control of the flying spaghetti monster.

    If you read internal Chinese documents and Chinese law, they are serious about socialism, especially planning for the improved welfare of the public.

    This is considered taboo in the US.

    Not only is Chinese socialism likely to out compete the US model, but the developing world in Africa and Latin America are likely to follow the Chinese model -- because it works.

    •  China is a triumph of Leninism (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erratic, mrkvica, Hammerhand, HamdenRice

      I'd say that China represents the triumph of the Leninist model of socialism. The party is in complete control but makes adjustments to capitalism as needed. When the young Soviet Union was about to collapse economically in 1921, Lenin invented the New Economic Policy, which allowed some private ownership of factories and farms. After Lenin's death in 1924, the NEP  was continued by his heirs until Stalin managed to consolidate control. He then imposed what we think of as the Soviet system, i.e. a totalitarian police state.

      In China the party is still in control and seems to have developed a means to avoid one man dictatorship, at least for the present. But that party remains a Leninist party and could conceivably revert to a completely totalitarian state in a crisis. Moreover, the party has never come to terms with the genocidal war waged by Mao against his own people which led, by most estimates, to 20 million dead.

      Yesterday's and today's New York Times articles on Chinese domination of the world economy are well worth reading

      If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

      by Valatius on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 09:02:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And because they are committed to it working (0+ / 0-)

      As such, willing to modify as needed.  Frequently, if necessary.

      It's amazing what people will do to others in the name of themselves.

      by ABlueKansas on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 03:01:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ...please always keep in mind the difference... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri

    ...between forms of government AND forms of economy.

    When I talk to people one of the most galling and striking misconceptions is that Democracy = Capitalism.

    That's totally wrong. Capitalism existed before Democracy ever did. Capitalism, frankly was just the natural things happened economically. When Adam Smith wrote his book, all he really did was study what was happening and then wrote about it. It all boiled down to "supply and demand," which is a very unfortunate title because the truth, as any one who studies economics will tell you, is the way it works is "demand and supply."

    What China has done is tried communism as a form of economy. They discovered it didn't work out so well. So they morphed. First they allowed capitalism to be OK in Hong Kong and then the southeast parts of China...then allowed capitalism to merge with the communist economy nationwide. NOW, China is really capitalistic primarily.

    This change occurred because it was obvious to the Chinese that capitalism was a better economic model than communism was an economic model.

    BUT China has also seen America flounder due to the fact the rich capitalists were allowed to buy the government by way of lobbiests and then the members of Congress being directly bought off.  Democracy in America has been bastardized...it is now "for those who can buy it," and no longer "by we the people."

    On the planet Earth today, capitalism is humming along in its most energetic form in China and other emerging economies. It is sputtering along in the USA, though it remains the only form of economy we have, it has been taken over by Wall Street, corporations and the uber wealthy (Koch Bros. and SuperPaks et. al.)

    China will NOT allow this to happen. They will keep the government unfettered by the rich buying it up. This doesn't mean there isn't corruption going on (there always is when money is involved) BUT it does mean they can "do things" in China by way of capitalistic economic policy because they let her rip. No longer do we do that in America.

    We will not do great things in America again as we see happening in China today. Capitalism in America is now only Wall Streets and Banks and their manipulation of money and schemes.

    What does it mean that "Beijing can do this sort of thing."  In this case, "this sort of thing" means making investments in the present and future of the country - employee training, equipment, research and development - in an efficient way.  Instead of political grandstanding, filibustering and inaction, the Chinese government identifies a goal - ensuring a minimum standard of life for almost 1.5 billion people - then takes action to achieve this goal.  No moralizing, no BS.  Just action.

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 10:19:00 AM PDT

  •  "Beijing, because it can do this sort of thing" (0+ / 0-)

    Because it is top-down hierarchical dictatorship that does not have to argue things out like a democracy does.  

    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 10:58:11 AM PDT

  •  Most of us would be members of the CP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica

    If we had been born in China. It's a large group of professionals mostly interested in government and making it work. The country is essentially run by knowledgeable professionals. The goal is to develop China into a successful first world country and they are succeeding. They embrace the Free Market, but only up to a certain level. Above that they insist that a formulated strategy to keep the economy supplied with resources and to keep it moving in the right direction is better than allowing greedy hacks to run the place into a wall.

    They are, however on a knife's edge. People would like more democracy and more control, especially when they see an appointed local leader acting in a way that they feel is contrary to the public benefit.

    Right now they can do big things. We in the US can't do big things.  But China's people have no direct control of government, or at least less than we do. China's leadership is going to have to invent a new system of government where they keep the professionals running the show but allow the people overall control as a form of democracy. I'm willing to bet that they can do it. Our stereotypes of government are completely useless in understanding this problem.

  •  I've said for years... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica

    As long as the climate change debate has been going on, people have been making excuses like, "It isn't just our problem.  China is a big part of the problem and if we change and they don't we won't be competitive!"

    I've been saying for years now that a push for renewable energy make us more competitive as for the first time in a long time we'd be ahead and establishing a market instead of waiting and trying to jump on the bandwagon, too late, after the fact.

    I've also said that it is a HUGE mistake to use China as an excuse for not changing because, as you've pointed out, once China decides to make a change they will be all in.  As a communist country, they will just impose it and spend whatevery they need to to make it happen.  And then the US/Canada will be way behind anyway because China will be invested and moving fast while our own political leaders make excuses to protect corporate profits.

    And now here we are.  Beijing is doing just that.  "Because it can do this sort of thing."  

  •  We just might have done ourselves a favor (0+ / 0-)

    Recently I saw an article about the high early failure rates on solar panels. In stead of lasting 20+ years, some of them are breaking or wearing out in two years. It's a significant fraction -- the figure 15% sticks in my mind.  The article made me glad I wasn't an 'early adopter' who put solar panels on the roof already. It's a great idea in the long run, but the technology seems to need to mature. Maybe they'll fix all the problems on the next generation of solar panels, maybe not.

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:15:37 PM PDT

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