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September 28, 2011 11:25 AM DeMint isn’t even trying

By Steve Benen

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times this week, making the case against federal loans to clean-energy companies. In the hopes of exploiting the “controversy” surrounding Solyndra’s collapse, DeMint labels the investments themselves, “Venture Socialism.”

Billions … have been wasted by politicians betting on favored companies and making Washington bigger, using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy. Mr. Obama calls them ‘investments,’ but this is really venture socialism.

I often wish far-right lawmakers would make it more challenging to ridicule them.

The complaints were much the same in the Senate, where DeMint said the Solyndra case exposed the “unintended results when our government tries to pick winners and losers.” That’s a valid criticism, but it would be more valid if DeMint hadn’t been a supporter of the loan-guarantee legislation in 2005. [emphasis added]

By DeMint’s reasoning, he was a “venture socialist” during the Bush era, helping create the same loan program that (a) happens to be a good idea; and (b) gave Solyndra a fairly modest loan that ended up not working.

How does DeMint explain being for “using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy” before being against it? He doesn’t.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • TheOtherJim on September 28, 2011 11:30 AM:

    So... DeMint was for loan guarantees before he was against them? Or, if I employ the Rick Perry vernacular, DeMint was for being for those, those, guaranteed loans when he was before them being against forbearing... fur-bearing loans. Guaranteed.

  • Ron Byers on September 28, 2011 11:36 AM:

    DeMint is just an opportunist who hopes nobody will notice that he was for venture loan guarantees before he was against them. My guess is after the current "scandal" dies down he will again be for loan guarantees.

    The Bush and Obama administrations placed a bet that didn't pay off. It happens.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on September 28, 2011 11:36 AM:

    Did Rick Perry study word salad under Sarah? also too

  • c u n d gulag on September 28, 2011 11:37 AM:

    Consistency is the...

    Consistency is the gobho...

    WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!!!

  • Todd for VT House on September 28, 2011 11:40 AM:

    TheOtherJim and gulag win the Internets today.

  • Lifelong Dem on September 28, 2011 11:40 AM:

    IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU'RE A REPUBLICAN!! Flip-flopping on issues is only harmful to Democrats. Remember what Crybaby Boehner said after the President's jobs speech to Congress? Just because Republicans were in favor of something last week doesn't mean they're in favor of it today.

    "cjg6@psu.edu chileti" forever!

  • Stephen Stralka on September 28, 2011 11:42 AM:

    You know, I would love to see Obama start picking up on these wild accusations of socialism the way he has with the class warfare thing. It might be a bit much to hope for, but it can be an effective way to defuse these kinds of loaded terms. "Socialism? This doesn't fit any definition of socialism I'm aware of, but if that's what we're calling socialism now, fine. I don't care what you call it as long as we put Americans back to work."

  • T2 on September 28, 2011 11:58 AM:

    DeMint doesn't have to explain anything... he's a TeaPartier.

    As for Rick Perry, his entire governorship has been marked by payouts to favored companies, many of which end up giving him campaign contributions. If Romney or Christie decide to play rough with Rick, they will hang him on that issue. It's all public record - check Houston Chronicle, Austin Statesman, Dallas Morning News. The latest is a Formula One racetrack in Austin, given 25 million per year for TEN years by the Perry government under the guise of boosting tourism - for a 1 day race once a year. Look at who's pushing the racetrack and you'll find major Perry contributors.

  • jomo on September 28, 2011 12:01 PM:

    Doesn't matter. He got the words "Venture Socialism" into the zeitgeist. It's a nice phrase that could have legs - and may cause us consternation for years to come.

  • cmdicely on September 28, 2011 12:03 PM:

    In the hopes of exploiting the “controversy” surrounding Solyndra’s collapse, DeMint labels the investments themselves, “Venture Socialism.”

    Which is, really, a pretty fair label. The point of loans like the program that DeMint was for before he was against is to socialize the risk of ventures in areas where success would create a diffuse public benefit aside from the private profit realized by specific private investors, so "Venture Socialism" makes sense as a label.

    It is the point specifically to encourage private investors to take risks that they otherwise would not take because the risk and costs of failure outweighed the expected private benefit. Solyndra isn't an example of the program failing (though if all the firms that got loans failed, that would be the program failing), its part of the program doing exactly what it is designed to do, which is increasing the willingness of private investors to accept risks that, if they payoff, will payoff for the public as well as the individual investors.

    Its not at all unfair to label internalize the perceived externalities of ventures like this as a form of socialism. But, in the end, what does it gain anyone but a vivid way of underlining that modern large advanced countries -- even the US, which is one of the more capitalist of them -- are mixed economies that incorporate elements of capitalism along with elements of socialism. Which, you know, is something people generally learn in high school, anyway.

    It seems to me that the people to whom just saying that something is a form of "socialism" will produce a strong negative reaction that is more than momentary are already opposed to everything Obama or any other Democrat does, so its unlikely to do much as a political message beyond throwing red meat to the base, particularly if the response isn't "Is not socialism!", but "It doesn't matter what you call it, its the right thing to do, and here's why..."

  • Trollop on September 28, 2011 12:05 PM:

    DeMint = hypocrite.

    And in other news... Barack Hussein Obama socializing ant colonies now, tax revenue kills elderly couple and Christiane Amanpour throws award winning softball, lead-in question!

  • mellowjohn on September 28, 2011 12:10 PM:

    it's only socialism when the democrats do it.

  • Josef K on September 28, 2011 12:18 PM:

    How does DeMint explain being for “using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy” before being against it? He doesn’t.

    Are we even sure that op-ed wasn't ghostwritten for Senator DeMint? The quote here has a few too many words using three or more syllables (I count eight) to believe the Senator in question wrote it himself.

    The man hasn't demonstrated he can spell at fifth-grade level, yet he's using words like "venture" and "preferences" with proper context and definition? Very hard to believe.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 28, 2011 12:28 PM:

    "How does DeMint explain being for “using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy” before being against it? He doesn’t."

    Ew, ew, ew, I know. Call on me.

    He was for it when a Republican president was. But now that a he's perceived a chance to attack a President, he's decided against it.

    That wasn't hard.

  • eahoppi on September 28, 2011 12:29 PM:

    How does DeMint explain being for “using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy” before being against it?

    That's an easy question to answer. DeMint is against "venture socialism" because President Obama is now for it. DeMint and the Republicans are opposed to anything Obama favors. You would think that President Obama would actually get it, and wholeheartedly embrace the extremist Republican agenda, just to make the Republicans turn around to oppose their own agenda.

    It's opposite-world!

  • Todd for VT House on September 28, 2011 12:31 PM:

    The point of loans like the program that DeMint was for before he was against is to socialize the risk of ventures in areas where success would create a diffuse public benefit aside from the private profit realized by specific private investors, so "Venture Socialism" makes sense as a label.

    Yes, it's sad that Luntz is better at framing things than Dems, who refuse to listen to Lakoff. It's a great label.

    Maybe we could take it back by pointing out the entire nuke industry is Venture Socialism...

  • SYSPROG on September 28, 2011 1:11 PM:

    ONE MORE TIME DeMint is hoping the media is stupider than he is...and he won again!

  • President Lindsay on September 28, 2011 9:59 PM:

    ...gave Solyndra a fairly modest loan...

    Half a billion dollars is NOT a "fairly modest loan." The DOE is way too enamoured of solar and wind. This was a bridge too far.

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