In our continuing effort to build a bullpen of talented conservative writers here at America’s Right, I’d like to introduce you to Robert Wallace. For a long time now, I have been following his reasoned and well-researched writings and, while I may not agree with him all the time, I am thrilled that he has decided to contribute here as well. I hope you find his work as enlightening as I do.
By Robert Wallace, America’s Right
Hilda Solis’s political career started at the Office of Hispanic Affairs under former president Jimmy Carter. From there, she moved to the Office of Management and Budget, and offered the first sign she might not make a great Secretary of Labor when she resigned from that position because she opposed then president Ronald Reagan’s policies. After resigning from that post and showing her true colors, Solis returned to her home state of California and won state office.
In 1994, Art Torres–now the head of the Democratic Party in California–predicted that she would “be a national star.”
Solis subsequently went on to take a House seat from an incumbent Democrat much as Obama did in Illinois, and continued to make a name for herself as a liberal’s liberal, describing herself in the Los Angeles Times as “a big believer that government, if done right, can do a lot to improve the quality of people’s lives.” Despite her Catholic faith she went on to secure the support of the pro-choice lobby–Emily’s List–and also found campaign support from the anti-gun lobby ist group, Handgun Control Inc. Since 1996, she has even served as a regular contributor at the Huffington Post, and currently is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus with a 100 percent “liberal quotient rating” from Americans for Democratic Action.
Nancy Pelosi scored a 95.
But Solis’s specialty issues are labor unions and the environment. When then Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed her bill to raise the minimum wage in California in 1995, she used her own funds to rally a ballot initiative to ram the change through during the following year. In the House, she sat on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Natural Resources, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming where she brought together her pro-union and pro-environmental record by making the promotion of green-collar jobs a top priority. She opposed free trade agreements and earned 100 percent approval ratings from pro-union groups. Because of her activism and voting record, the United Auto Workers (cause of much of the problems facing U.S. automakers) was quick to applaud her appointment to be the Secretary of Labor, as were the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters.
This makes Hilda Solis a Secretary of Labor after Barack Obama’s own heart. In addition to sharing his left-wing legislative record and a minority-makes-history narrative, she mirrors his synthesis of populist liberal economics and environmentalism with an emphasis on “green” job creation as a solution to the economic crisis.
Of course, with more than 20 cabinet-level positions in any administration, any given appointment is only as significant as the amount of attention that the president devotes to that particular position. Therefore, without the backing of the president, cabinet members are unlikely to have much impact. With Obama’s emphasis on job creation to combat the recession, however, there’s every reason to believe that Secretary of Labor is going to be a top-priority post during this upcoming administration.
The chief policy difference between Barack Obama and Hilda Solis is that campaigning for president of the United States forced Obama to pragmatically shift rightward in terms of ideology and governance. Solis, whose district compromises part of the Los Angeles area, never had to make that shift. She represents Obama’s liberalism without the restraints of dealing with harsh foreign policy realities or campaigning for national office in less liberal parts of the country. This spells danger for the American economy.
Her reflexive protectionism and pro-union stance on the one hand and her environmentalism on the other hand are bad enough taken separately. But the sum is more than the parts. Consider the lesson of the recent bailout of American automakers. When legislators proved unable to agree on a handout, President Bush stepped in and, with use of executive powers, diverted billions of dollars intended for the financial sector towards the automakers instead. He included a token requirement that the unions renegotiate contracts to lower car manufacturers’ labor costs to be more in line with foreign competitors like Toyota and Honda who operate non-union factories on American soil, but actions speak louder than words.
In this case, while the words may have been “please cooperate with management to make realistic cuts,” the actions said “we’d rather increase the deficit than risk losing union jobs.”
Consider what the mentality of diverting tax-payer dollars to protect union jobs could look like when it comes to so-called “green-collar” jobs. No matter how well-intentioned some idealistic environmentalists may be, their initiatives have rapidly been subverted and converted into money-making schemes, the most egregious example being corn-ethanol subsidies — despite having no positive environmental impact whatsoever, billions of dollars have been funneled into the corn industry under the fraudulent misrepresentation of “saving the planet.”
That is what the impending green-collar revolution may very well end up being — a Federal boondoggle resulting in billions of taxpayer dollars going towards companies and unions which offer false promises of economic and environmental salvation while they pocket tax-payer dollars.
Even in the best of times, this would be a strain on the economy. In the midst of an economic crisis with the federal deficit already spiraling out of control, however, it spells absolute disaster. In order to pay for billions in new subsidies, we must either raise taxes or stretch an already thin dollar by borrowing yet more. Probably both. But it gets worse.
The fundamental cause of the current economic malaise is one of valuation. The housing bubble has burst and the subsequent downward revaluation in home prices largely led to the credit crisis and the subsequent liquidity issues which have toppled financial giants like Bear-Stearns. That being said, the only way to rebuild the American economy is with economic activity of real value. If green-collar projects like adding solar panels and wind turbines were genuinely economically viable, such projects would not need billions in government subsidies much in the way corn-based ethanol has. If they do need the subsides, then we’re not really adding value to the economy. So, if throwing billions in government subsidies into the creation of green-collar jobs works, it will mean nothing more than the creation of a new bubble which will precipitate an even more disastrous financial crisis down the road. And, of course, if it doesn’t work and new jobs aren’t created than it means further destabilization of the current situation.
Catering to unions is certainly not the only cause of problems with American automakers, but it has certainly exacerbated the other problems. And while the current economic crisis arose from government intervention in the housing market that had nothing to do with unions, it’s very possible that the next phase of the crisis will. The common denominator here is the attempt to use unrestrained, unchecked government power to make the world better. Whether the noble ambition is to tinker with mortgages to ensure everyone has a home they can’t afford, or to dole out billions to keep union workers employed at unprofitable jobs, or to pump federal funds into environmental boondoggles that neither save the planet nor add value to the economy, the results will be the same — economic disaster for the country at large. In the long run, nobody is helped by these misguided efforts.
President-elect Obama may have shifted rightward to the point where he can no longer champion such boldly progressive government agendas, but in Hilda Solis he may have found a surrogate who can. The fact that she is rumored to be a close ally of Pelosi–indicating a potentially collegial relationship between the White House and the House of Representatives–only underscores both Obama’s political savvy and the danger presented when such talent champions counter-productive liberal policies.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.