2012 Senate | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Maybe you hadn't heard, but Democratic Senator Bob Casey is facing an election challenge: a GOP nominee who so far appears to be as distinctive as his name: Tom Smith. Smith is rolling out an attack ad which, among other things, faults Bob Casey for voting for President Obama's stimulus bill. Most of all, though, it blasts Casey because, "He failed to offer one single solution to create jobs."

Uhhhhh ... I thought Republicans didn't think Washington politicians could create jobs. But moving on, you'll note the ad alleges that the stimulus plan created jobs in China. What's going on with that?

For starters, this is an old Republican attack line, typically based on concerns that Chinese firms have benefited from American investments in green energy. Such claims in previous ads have run afoul of fact-checkers, by overstating how much money has ended up in China, and understating how many jobs were created in the U.S. Smith's ad sidesteps those factual concerns by: a) not really citing any concrete facts at all, and b) referring to a 2011 Tribune-Review story.

That story did indeed find that green-energy spending benefited some Chinese companies. But a thorough read of the story suggests how hard it would be to avoid that result. Simply put, if you're going to invest in green energy at all, it's very difficult -- if not impossible -- for money and jobs not to end up in China:

American companies trying to make LED streetlights and traffic lights face a problem.

Their Asian counterparts have a head start, said Ross Young, senior vice president of IMS Research ... China is beginning "to dominate the capacity for growth," said Young.

To do that, the Chinese government began providing subsidies to attract manufacturers of semiconductor wafers ...

"We don't have the manufacturing experience" in the United States, said Vrinda Bhandarkar, director of LED lighting research for market research firm Strategies Unlimited. "They have it there."

Bhandarkar said it would have been unrealistic to expect U.S. cities to restrict their choices in selecting streetlights.

In fact, the story notes, even American suppliers have to rely on Chinese-made components for their products. That's just how global capitalism works now.

Let's put aside the part where the story explains how the Chinese got to where they are -- by strong government intervention in the market. Republicans typically frown on -- and shout "Solyndra!" at -- such efforts here.

So just to be clear. On the one hand, Republicans decry government inefficiency, and celebrate the rise of global capitalism. But Tom Smith wants you to punish Bob Casey for investing in energy efficiency ... and relying on global markets to do so.