The Solyndra “scandal” is trotted out every few months as part of the big-vs.-small-government debate in this country, but it is not and never was a scandal. The federal clean-energy loan program that the infamous solar-panel maker was a part of was designed to finance risky ventures, and Solyndra was a reasonable risk: an innovative manufacturer with huge private backing and an opportunity to transform the industry. But the industry transformed itself first. Silicon prices plunged, Solyndra’s advantages vanished, and the firm went bust. It happens. The Bush and Obama Administrations both selected Solyndra from 143 applicants for the program’s first loan, and investigators found no evidence that political interference made that happen. Yes, a White House official wrote “Ugh” in an e-mail when she heard about the $535 million default. What was she supposed to write?
But no matter how often independent fact checkers debunk charges of crony capitalism, Washington Republicans won’t be deterred from pushing a No More Solyndras Act, vowing to kill the loan program. Mitt Romney is basically running a No More Solyndras campaign, attacking Obama’s entire green push as a payoff to donors. Government aid isn’t supposed to guarantee success; subsidized farms and entrepreneurs with Small Business Administration loans fail all the time. According to one White House official, some students who receive Pell Grants end up drunks on the street. Still, Solyndra has become shorthand for Big Government sleaze.