By Mike Elk
Of Campaign for America’s Future
Conservatives have started a disturbing pattern of attacking Democrats for the consequences of weak Buy America provisions in last year’s Recovery Act, even though they opposed the tougher Buy America provisions that would have averted the problems in the first place.
Last week, I wrote about how Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele launched this Republican talking point:
… Steele blasted the Obama administration in a fund-raising email earlier this week for allowing stimulus money designated for clean energy solutions to be spent on overseas companies. Which is interesting, because stimulus money going to overseas firms was the direct result of conservative opposition to attempts to keep that money in America.
Now it seems that Sarah Palin has joined the chorus of flip-flopping conservatives opposed to Buy America, who ignore the fact that progressive Democrats were fighting for Buy America language in the stimulus. Palin wrote on her Facebook wall:
“We were promised it would provide “green jobs” for Americans, but 80% of the $2 billion they spent on alternative energy went to purchase wind turbines built in China!”
While some of the money did go to foreign companies to spend on windmill components built overseas, a lot of that money went to the U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies. Russ Choma, author of the study which Palin cites, rebuts Palin in this Politifact article:
The Investigative Reporting Workshop’s story on stimulus dollars and the wind industry came in two parts. In October 2009, it published its first analysis. The group found that of the $1.05 billion in clean-energy grants already handed out by the Department of Energy, about 84 percent — or $849 million — ended up in the hands of foreign wind companies. We spoke with Russ Choma, the story’s author, who explained that these grants are given to U.S.-based wind projects, but that many of these projects are being built by the American subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. For instance, on Sept. 22, 2009, the DOE awarded $464.2 million to wind projects, and all of it went to local subsidiaries of foreign companies, according to the report. Those companies include Iberdrola, a Spanish company that received $250.9 million; the American subsidiary of Japan’s Eurus Energy, which got $91.3 million; and the American subsidiary of Germany’s E.ON Group, which received $121.9 million. Choma also points out that the wind turbine manufacturing industry in the United States is relatively weak compared to those abroad; of the 1,807 turbines erected in the United States as a result of the stimulus grants, foreign-owned manufacturers made 1,219, according to the report.
Besides Palin misrepresenting the facts, Palin fails to note that her fellow conservative Republicans opposed Buy America language, labeling it“bad for America.”
As I noted last week:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain went on CBS’s Face the Nation on February 8, 2009:
“I think it has policy changes in it which are fundamentally bad for America. For example, their ‘Buy America’ provision: that’s protectionism, and that did not work in any time in our history.”
As recently as October 2009, GOP Congressional leaders held an event to call for the rollback of Buy America provisions claiming that Buy America provisions were “costing American jobs.”
This is just another example of Republicans obfuscating their positions in order to win votes. But what’s disturbing is that there is a margin of truth in what they say. Because Buy America provisions were weak in the stimulus bill, some of the money (though not as much as Palin claims) did go overseas. It happened because Democrats failed to put up a strong enough fight.
That can’t happen again. As Congress considers a jobs bill, it’s important that we encourage members not to compromise on Buy America provisions. If Democrats allow Buy America to be weakened, conservatives will use the result to attack them anyway. They should instead force Republicans into a real, round-the-clock filibuster Buy America language. That will show just how patriotic conservatives are when its comes to using American taxpayer money to give Americans jobs.
Posted February 25, 2010 at 11:04 am, in From Campaign for America's Future