Entrepreneurship, Obama-Style

Peter Wilson
Valerie Jarrett recently posted a blog entry at Whitehouse.gov titled "Celebrating National Entrepreneurs' Day," a reference to the Presidential Proclamation last week announcing both a Day and a Week to celebrate the American capitalist:  "Entrepreneurs embody the promise that lies at the heart of America -- that if you have a good idea and work hard enough, the American dream is within your reach."

What's going on here?  Valerie Jarrett, the Senior Advisor to the President, "Barack's Rock" as Vogue magazine put it, is suddenly a booster for capitalism after a lifetime of mingling with the anti-capitalist Chicago left?  Jarrett was instrumental in the nomination of Communist Van Jones to his White House Green Jobs Czar job and has been said to have a "mind meld" with our redistribute-the-wealth statist President.  When Jarrett left her job as CEO of the Habitat Company, a Chicago real estate developer, to take a government job, she told Vogue, "I wanted to do something [that my daughter would] be really proud of me for." Michelle Obama wasn't proud of her country, and Jarrett wasn't proud of her work in the private sector.  (Or perhaps she was thinking of Habitat's links to convicted felon Tony Rezko and her company's disgraceful management of the Grove Parc Plaza public slum--er, housing project.)

This celebration of the entrepreneur makes more sense when you consider President Obama's concept of entrepreneurship, as described in last year's "National Innovation Strategy." Suffice it to say that Jarrett and Obama haven't been converted by the ghost of Milton Friedman.

The report from the White House's National Economic Council goes through the requisite praise of small business and the entrepreneurial spirit, and has a section on how the "President's plans will ensure fair and open [export] markets for American producers."  The authors even make this astonishing admission:

[H]istorical experience in this country and others clearly indicates that governments who try to pick winners and drive growth too often end up wasting resources and stifling rather than promoting innovation. This is in part due to the limited ability of the government to predict the future, but also because such exercises are distorted by lobbyists and rent seekers, which are more likely to favor backward looking industries than forward looking ones. In the United States such failures at picking winners and losers includes most prominently the Synthetic Fuel Corporation, a $20 billion Federal project in the 1980s that failed to provide the promised alternative to oil.

The pretense is that the Obama Administration is able to chart the middle course between the failed experiments of laissez-faire capitalism and excessive government regulation.  Once this disclaimer has been dispensed with, the NEC goes on to promote a grab-bag of big spending on winners picked by the government.  The idea that an entrepreneur will benefit from low taxes, simplified regulation and minimal government interference is foreign to the President; it is clear from the report's first sentences that he believes that innovators must be nurtured by massive government spending:

President Obama has taken historic steps to lay the foundation for the innovation economy of the future. The Obama Innovation Strategy builds on well over $100 billion of Recovery Act funds that support innovation, additional support for education, infrastructure and others in the Recovery Act and the President's Budget, and novel regulatory and executive order initiatives.

Below are some of Obama's "historic" programs to support American innovation, quoted from the report:

  • "Enact the Largest R&D increase in our nation's history.  Double the R&D budget of key science agencies." (Current NIH research budget: $31.2 billion, plus an additional $10 billion from the Recovery Act.  The 2010 National Science Foundation budget: $6.9 billion.)
  • "Reform public schools to deliver a complete and competitive education."  (More money to the teacher's unions.)
  • Invest three percent of GDP in R&D. ($437 billion at today's levels.  That $20 billion Synfuels boondoggle is looking cheap.)
  • "[$500 million to] design world-class online courses for post-secondary students...available at community colleges."  (Is this the job of the federal government?)
  • "Invest in our nation's roads, bridges, and mass transit.  The Recovery Act provides $36 billion for infrastructure projects."
  • "Modernize the Electric Grid. The Recovery Act provides $4.5 billion for the development of technologies to enable greater energy efficiency, customer demand response, energy storage, and other components of the ‘Smart Grid.'"
  • $6.25 billion in loan guarantees "to invest in transmission lines that will increase the development of renewables."
  • "Fulfill a new transportation vision with high-speed rail. The President made a down payment on this strategy with an $8 billion investment in the Recovery Act."
  • "Assure net neutrality to preserve the freedom and openness of Internet access."
  • "Appoint a Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Government."  (Entrepreneurs have been crying out for more bureaucrats.)
  • "Ensure working financial markets [that] increases supervision of financial markets [and] rebuilds trust in our markets by creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency."  (The 2000-page Financial Regulation Bill.)
  • "Provide training and mentoring to entrepreneurs... The SBA has 68 district offices and over a thousand nonprofit ‘resource partners' that offer 14,000 counselors who serve about 1.5 million entrepreneurs and small business owners each year...to promote the creation of new businesses, particularly among women and minorities."
  • "Make the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  (Sure, any day now.)
  • "Double the nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years."  (Will any "rent seekers" or "lobbyists" receive federal grants?)
  • "The Recovery Act and national energy policy will generate a proliferation of new technologies, processes, and jobs relating to improving energy efficiency. The Recovery Act alone provided [$15.8 billion for] renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation efforts."
  • "Enact a cap-and-trade program to curb oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions while spurring renewable energy technologies."
  • "The President has proposed RE-ENERGYSE, a joint educational campaign from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to inspire tens of thousands of young Americans to pursue careers in clean energy."
  • "Make the largest investment in technology for electric vehicles and transportation electrification in U.S. history." (The authors don't specify how this differs from the failed Synfuels program.)
  • "Deploy up to $25 billion in loans to support American manufacturing of advanced vehicle technologies."
  • "Support the next generation of American biofuels."  (Isn't burning our crops sort of a "backward looking industry"?)
  • "Improve vehicle fuel efficiency to reduce oil dependence and spark innovation."
  • "Expand the use of health IT...e.g. electronic medical records."
  • "Slow the growth of health care costs. The President is committed to comprehensive reform for a health care system."  (Obamacare.)

This list covers nearly every expansion of government proposed (or accomplished since last year) by the Obama Administration.   Valerie Jarrett and Obama either actually believe that big government fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, in which case they are clueless.  Or they think they can use capitalist buzzwords like innovation and entrepreneurship to disguise the command economy they hope to institute, in which case they are deceitful.  

Neither option speaks well of them.
Valerie Jarrett recently posted a blog entry at Whitehouse.gov titled "Celebrating National Entrepreneurs' Day," a reference to the Presidential Proclamation last week announcing both a Day and a Week to celebrate the American capitalist:  "Entrepreneurs embody the promise that lies at the heart of America -- that if you have a good idea and work hard enough, the American dream is within your reach."

What's going on here?  Valerie Jarrett, the Senior Advisor to the President, "Barack's Rock" as Vogue magazine put it, is suddenly a booster for capitalism after a lifetime of mingling with the anti-capitalist Chicago left?  Jarrett was instrumental in the nomination of Communist Van Jones to his White House Green Jobs Czar job and has been said to have a "mind meld" with our redistribute-the-wealth statist President.  When Jarrett left her job as CEO of the Habitat Company, a Chicago real estate developer, to take a government job, she told Vogue, "I wanted to do something [that my daughter would] be really proud of me for." Michelle Obama wasn't proud of her country, and Jarrett wasn't proud of her work in the private sector.  (Or perhaps she was thinking of Habitat's links to convicted felon Tony Rezko and her company's disgraceful management of the Grove Parc Plaza public slum--er, housing project.)

This celebration of the entrepreneur makes more sense when you consider President Obama's concept of entrepreneurship, as described in last year's "National Innovation Strategy." Suffice it to say that Jarrett and Obama haven't been converted by the ghost of Milton Friedman.

The report from the White House's National Economic Council goes through the requisite praise of small business and the entrepreneurial spirit, and has a section on how the "President's plans will ensure fair and open [export] markets for American producers."  The authors even make this astonishing admission:

[H]istorical experience in this country and others clearly indicates that governments who try to pick winners and drive growth too often end up wasting resources and stifling rather than promoting innovation. This is in part due to the limited ability of the government to predict the future, but also because such exercises are distorted by lobbyists and rent seekers, which are more likely to favor backward looking industries than forward looking ones. In the United States such failures at picking winners and losers includes most prominently the Synthetic Fuel Corporation, a $20 billion Federal project in the 1980s that failed to provide the promised alternative to oil.

The pretense is that the Obama Administration is able to chart the middle course between the failed experiments of laissez-faire capitalism and excessive government regulation.  Once this disclaimer has been dispensed with, the NEC goes on to promote a grab-bag of big spending on winners picked by the government.  The idea that an entrepreneur will benefit from low taxes, simplified regulation and minimal government interference is foreign to the President; it is clear from the report's first sentences that he believes that innovators must be nurtured by massive government spending:

President Obama has taken historic steps to lay the foundation for the innovation economy of the future. The Obama Innovation Strategy builds on well over $100 billion of Recovery Act funds that support innovation, additional support for education, infrastructure and others in the Recovery Act and the President's Budget, and novel regulatory and executive order initiatives.

Below are some of Obama's "historic" programs to support American innovation, quoted from the report:

  • "Enact the Largest R&D increase in our nation's history.  Double the R&D budget of key science agencies." (Current NIH research budget: $31.2 billion, plus an additional $10 billion from the Recovery Act.  The 2010 National Science Foundation budget: $6.9 billion.)
  • "Reform public schools to deliver a complete and competitive education."  (More money to the teacher's unions.)
  • Invest three percent of GDP in R&D. ($437 billion at today's levels.  That $20 billion Synfuels boondoggle is looking cheap.)
  • "[$500 million to] design world-class online courses for post-secondary students...available at community colleges."  (Is this the job of the federal government?)
  • "Invest in our nation's roads, bridges, and mass transit.  The Recovery Act provides $36 billion for infrastructure projects."
  • "Modernize the Electric Grid. The Recovery Act provides $4.5 billion for the development of technologies to enable greater energy efficiency, customer demand response, energy storage, and other components of the ‘Smart Grid.'"
  • $6.25 billion in loan guarantees "to invest in transmission lines that will increase the development of renewables."
  • "Fulfill a new transportation vision with high-speed rail. The President made a down payment on this strategy with an $8 billion investment in the Recovery Act."
  • "Assure net neutrality to preserve the freedom and openness of Internet access."
  • "Appoint a Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Government."  (Entrepreneurs have been crying out for more bureaucrats.)
  • "Ensure working financial markets [that] increases supervision of financial markets [and] rebuilds trust in our markets by creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency."  (The 2000-page Financial Regulation Bill.)
  • "Provide training and mentoring to entrepreneurs... The SBA has 68 district offices and over a thousand nonprofit ‘resource partners' that offer 14,000 counselors who serve about 1.5 million entrepreneurs and small business owners each year...to promote the creation of new businesses, particularly among women and minorities."
  • "Make the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  (Sure, any day now.)
  • "Double the nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years."  (Will any "rent seekers" or "lobbyists" receive federal grants?)
  • "The Recovery Act and national energy policy will generate a proliferation of new technologies, processes, and jobs relating to improving energy efficiency. The Recovery Act alone provided [$15.8 billion for] renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation efforts."
  • "Enact a cap-and-trade program to curb oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions while spurring renewable energy technologies."
  • "The President has proposed RE-ENERGYSE, a joint educational campaign from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to inspire tens of thousands of young Americans to pursue careers in clean energy."
  • "Make the largest investment in technology for electric vehicles and transportation electrification in U.S. history." (The authors don't specify how this differs from the failed Synfuels program.)
  • "Deploy up to $25 billion in loans to support American manufacturing of advanced vehicle technologies."
  • "Support the next generation of American biofuels."  (Isn't burning our crops sort of a "backward looking industry"?)
  • "Improve vehicle fuel efficiency to reduce oil dependence and spark innovation."
  • "Expand the use of health IT...e.g. electronic medical records."
  • "Slow the growth of health care costs. The President is committed to comprehensive reform for a health care system."  (Obamacare.)

This list covers nearly every expansion of government proposed (or accomplished since last year) by the Obama Administration.   Valerie Jarrett and Obama either actually believe that big government fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, in which case they are clueless.  Or they think they can use capitalist buzzwords like innovation and entrepreneurship to disguise the command economy they hope to institute, in which case they are deceitful.  

Neither option speaks well of them.