2013: Veils of Secrecy as More ‘Green’ Taxpayer Money Disappears

Money down the drainLast year at this time NLPC reviewed 2012 as “The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste,” and that description applied to 2013 as well. But additional trends of government opaqueness and inattention to safety and security – often related to stimulus-funded programs and their corporate beneficiaries – were also revealed.

EPA, Dept. of Energy Secretive About Communications

As President Obama began his second term, watchdogs of the administration’s environmental (EPA, Dept. of Interior) and energy (Department of Energy) cabinet spaces discovered that officials maintained secret email accounts to conduct government business out of public view. Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute uncovered a fake identity maintained by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson while researching his book The Liberal War on Transparency. The effort to access her messages and those of other officials has been protracted.

EPA began producing records in January from Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email account … Read More ➡

Obamacare Pork to UAW Rolled Out Without a Glitch

Obama UAWWhile the Obama Administration is still pumping resources and taxpayer money into the implementation of Obamacare, the initial disbursement of pork included in the bill was successfully doled out almost a full two years ago. And the main recipient of taxpayer largess was, once again, the UAW.

The Obamacare pork came in the form of a program called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program or ERRP. $5 billion of taxpayer money was allocated to help pay for healthcare costs to retirees between the age of 55 and 65. Number one on the union-dominated list of recipients was the UAW, which received $387.2 million for its VEBA fund, which was set up to pay UAW retiree health care costs. This amount was still not good enough for the UAW as they penned a letter to Congress in February of 2012 requesting an increase in ERRP funding to $10 billion.

General Motors … Read More ➡

More Fire, More Subsidies for Tesla in California

Elon MuskThere’s that uncomfortable juxtaposition of words again: “Tesla” and “fire.”

This time was quite an accomplishment by the electric automaker’s publicity department: they kept the Irvine, Calif. garage fire quiet for over a month. The secrecy expired on the November 15 incident when the Orange County Fire Authority attributed the incident to the EV’s re-powering set-up, according to a report obtained by Reuters.

“The fire occurred as a result of an electrical failure in the charging system for an electric vehicle,” the report said, while stating the cause of the fire is unclear. “The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system” which was plugged into a 240-volt wall socket, the report said.

CEO Elon Musk (pictured with President Obama) and his PR mavens have been putting out image “fires” … Read More ➡

GM Spends $1.3 Billion to “Create or Retain” 1,000 Jobs

Just days after the US government announced their exit from General Motors, the company announced a move that sounds like it could have come directly out of the Obama Administration playbook. GM is boasting about “creating or retaining” roughly a thousand jobs at the cost of approximately $1.3 million per job in a move that could only be viewed as a positive from a political point of view.

The heavy spending to preserve union jobs did not go unrecognized by the Obama-friendly UAW. UAW Vice President Joe Ashton stated:

Today’s announcement is a win for American workers. The UAW is proud to be a part of this successful collaboration with GM that has helped rebuild the nation’s economy, created good paying, union jobs in communities across the country, and brought manufacturing that was moved overseas back to the U.S. This is further proof that collective bargaining works.

I would argue … Read More ➡

Dana Milbank’s Hack Journalism

MilbankYesterday, I confronted outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, the speaker at a National Press Club luncheon. At a press conference beforehand, and through the first question at the conclusion of his remarks, I requested that GM repay taxpayers the $10 billion in direct GM bailout costs.

Akerson’s refusal dominated much of the media coverage of the event. This was clearly not the story line that Akerson intended.  In short, we happily stepped all over his message that the bailout is a success and that GM is back.

The USA Today/Detroit Free Press story is headlined. “GM’s CEO rejects repaying Feds for bailout losses…” Drudge linked to it. The Associated Press story centers around Akerson’s reasons for not repaying the government. If the comments by readers at various newspapers are any indication, we touched a nerve.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank attended my press conference and penned a sneering critique Read More ➡

Adoption of New Bulbs Requires Big Subsidies and Killing Incandescents

Cree bulbThe full implementation of the incandescent light bulb ban takes effect in two weeks, which in the U.S. government’s anti-liberty wisdom will effectively eliminate the competition to companies like Cree, Inc., who one industry analyst has said is trying to do a “land grab” of the alternative lighting market.

Besides the illegalization of the Thomas Edison’s filamentous light, Cree last week received a $30 million tax credit from the Department of Energy to expand its manufacturing in Racine, Wisc. and Durham, N.C., where it is also headquartered. That was the second installment for Cree from the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit Program, which was funded by $2.3 billion from the Recovery Act. The first windfall for Cree from the stimulus was a $39-million tax credit, as well as $1.8 million for research and development. This is in addition to millions of dollars in federal grants and contracts, … Read More ➡

Sorry Dan Akerson, GM Bailout is Failure

I made these remarks today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before the luncheon speech of outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson:

President Obama justified the auto bailout by predicting it would make money for the taxpayer. With Treasury now selling its remaining shares, the direct loss is about $10 billion. So on its most fundamental level, the auto bailout is a failure.

But that $10 billion figure dramatically understates the true cost. There were separate multibillion dollar bailouts of Ally Financial, formerly know as GMAC, and Delphi and other suppliers. There was cash for clunkers, the government guarantee of warrantees, accelerated fleet purchases, etc., etc.

Treasury also allowed a novel application of the tax-loss carryforward provisions of the tax code during the GM bankruptcy, shielding $30-$40 billion in GM profits from taxation.

In addition to all these costs, the bailout probably ensures future bailout costs when GM … Read More ➡

GM Asked to Pay Back $10 Billion Bailout Costs

pile of cashPeter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), today posed key questions to the General Motors leadership at a National Press Club press conference, including whether the company will repay to taxpayers the $10 billion direct cost of the GM bailout.

News that the U.S. Treasury Department has sold its remaining stake and that Mary Barra will take over as GM’s new CEO have put the spotlight on the company and its future. GM executives have pointed to GM’s $26.8 billion in cash as evidence of its improved financial position. Analysts have raised the possibility that the company will buy back shares or institute a dividend.

Questions for GM:

1) Will GM compensate taxpayers for the $10 billion loss they have taken on their involuntary “investment” in the company?

2) If not, why should taxpayers take a loss now on their GM “investment” when the company allegedly … Read More ➡

Fisker Execs Kept Salaries While Employees, Taxpayers Got Taken

Fisker hearingThirteen of Fisker Automotive executives made more than six figures in the past year, despite manufacturing zero cars.

The news was first reported Wednesday afternoon on the automotive Web site Jalopnik.com, and later in the evening by the Delaware Journal. Jalopnik often gets the scoops when electric cars catch fire. For those unaware of the ugly saga, Fisker declared bankruptcy at the end of last month after squandering more than $1.4 billion in private investment and losing $139 million of taxpayers’ money.

According to news reports, including one from the Journal a year ago, not a single Fisker Karma – the $102,000 (base price) luxury electric plug-in embraced by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore – has been produced since July 2012. Hopeful workers in Wilmington, Del. –where company officials and local politicians loudly announced the revival of a former General Motors plant for the … Read More ➡

Cadillac ELR: Mary Barra’s First Embarrassment?

Mary BarraGeneral Motors has announced that Mary Barra will be replacing Dan Akerson as CEO as of mid-January. Ms. Barra was previously the head of global product development. As such, she already has to take partial responsibility for the over-hyped and low-selling Chevy Volt along with the upcoming Cadillac version of the car. With Consumer Reports now stating that the new Cadillac ELR (a glorified Chevy Volt) gave them “sticker shock,” will the ELR be the first major embarrassment for Ms. Barra?

Anyone who has followed the Chevy Volt story could have guessed at what the prospects for a gussied up and rebadged Cadillac version of the car, for over twice the price, would be. The vehicle may well be GM’s worst idea in history. I can not imagine what the motivation for GM to manufacture such a car might be. The decision to produce the car should scare the bejeezus … Read More ➡

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