Obamateurism of the Day

Jim Pethokoukis summed up “the entire Obama presidency, in one anecdote” taken from a new book called The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery.  The anecdote shows how Barack Obama insisted that the failure of his Keynesian stimulus plan had to be in the numbers rather than in reality:

Week after week, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer would march in with an estimate of the jobs all the investments in clean energy would produce; week after week, Obama would send her back to check the numbers. “I don’t get it,” he’d say. “We make these large-scale investments in infrastructure. What do you mean, there are no jobs?” But the numbers rarely budged.

Well, that doesn’t actually sum up the Obama presidency.  After all, anyone can make the mistake of believing Keynesianism will work until they’ve tried it for themselves in the real world the first time.  It’s when he showed up to the Boulder City, Nevada site of Sempra and insisted that the $54 million in Sempra’s Copper Mountain Solar Project created hundreds of jobs for local workers that it tipped over into an OOTD:

In fact, as I was talking to the folks from Sempra, they were explaining that this location is almost optimal for solar power generation, not only because it’s flat, transmission lines were already here, the sun is traveling and there’s no haze and it’s absolutely clear.  And so this is an extraordinary opportunity for the community.  And when a business showed up with plans to build a new solar plant, hundreds of local workers got jobs because of it.  Thousands of families are now powering their homes with a cleaner, renewable source of energy.

And this is not just happening here in Boulder City — it’s happening in cities and towns all across America.  According to experts, we’ve now got more than 5,600 solar companies nationwide, and many of them are small businesses.  There are solar companies in every single state in the Union.  And today, we’re producing enough solar energy to power 730,000 American homes.  And because of the investments we’ve made as a nation, the use of renewable energies has actually doubled.

The $54 million created 300 part-time jobs.  That would be a cost of $180,000 per job, by the way, which wouldn’t be worth it even if those jobs were still around.  However, they were just the construction jobs that ended when the facility was completed.  How many full-time permanent jobs did the $54 million create at the Copper Mountain Solar Project?  Five. Not five hundred, but just five full-time jobs for operating the Sempra plant:

President Obama will tout investments in “renewable” energy Wednesday at the local Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant, although the plant has only five full-time employees.

The plant, owned by San Diego-based energy company Sempra, was built in late 2010 at a cost of $141 million. Funding included $42 million in federal-government tax credits and $12 million in tax-rebate commitments from the state of Nevada.

Construction of the plant involved over 300 part-time jobs, but currently only five full-time employees operate the plant, a Sempra spokeswoman confirmed. That comes out to $10.8 million in tax-dollar subsidies per employee.

Maybe the President should check those numbers.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

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