Vice President Biden was 50 minutes late to his stimulus innovation briefing yesterday. In that period of time, the latest economic numbers suggest, 2,500 newly jobless workers applied for unemployment benefits.
When he finally arrived at 11:35 Eastern Standard Time with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Biden had little to show in the way of results from the Obama administration's $862 billion stimulus package. But he did demonstrate that our economic woes have not caused a corresponding decline in wishful thinking.
Waste, fraud and abuse in the stimulus package? No way, says Joe.
“Thus far, that dog hasn't barked,” Biden said. “Under one percent of all the money that's been spent has even been questioned as to whether or not … it is being spent appropriately.”
For the record, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has questioned $14.4 billion in stimulus spending on 300 projects, all in writing. That's 6 percent of the value of all stimulus contracts awarded and 17 percent of the money spent as of June 30. Coburn may produce another report soon, but please be patient — his staff is finite. (He might need a large stimulus grant to keep up with all of the waste, fraud and abuse.)
Biden's rose-tinted speech included in its written version the claim that the stimulus has already created 3 million jobs. In person, he hedged on that proposition, stating instead that “there would be 3 million fewer people working today” without the stimulus, and that “no serious economist” would say otherwise.
The speech was accompanied by the release of an equally sanguine report on stimulus innovations from the Department of Energy. The department, recently faulted by the Government Accountability Office for the $194,000 price tag on each stimulus job it claims to have created, now promises to double U.S. renewable-energy generation capacity “by 2012.”
To understand how ludicrous this promise is, consider that America's renewable-energy consumption has grown by only 16 percent in the last 25 years, according to the Energy Information Administration. Even that increase is almost entirely attributable to last decade's ethanol mandates.
By 2015, Biden promised, the stimulus will help cut the cost of solar power by 50 percent, and of electric car batteries by 70 percent. Electric vehicles will be cost-competitive with your Honda Civic. Thanks to the stimulus package, you'll be able to map out your genetic code in 2015 for the price of a good lobster and champagne dinner — not that you'll necessarily have a job or the means to afford either one.
Biden did not mention a few key items from the Department of Energy report. For example, it heralds the recent $535 million in loan guarantees given to Solyndra, a money-losing solar panel manufacturer whose “ability to continue as a going concern” has recently been the subject of some doubt. If the company doesn't go under, it will supposedly create 1,000 long-term “green” jobs.
Biden's speech came shortly after House Republican leader John Boehner called on President Obama to fire his entire economic team. Biden offered not only an explicit rebuttal to Boehner, but an implicit one as well: Why would anyone fire a team capable of promising so much?
David Freddoso is The Examiner's online opinion editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.