Barack Obama visited Boston today to appear at a $6000 per person fundraising event for our Democratic governor, fellow law school graduate Deval Patrick. At first I was excited because I though that perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize winner would take his Aunt Zeituni back with him on Air Force One. Obama indeed praised Governor Patrick for having built additional public housing units here in Massachusetts, but he did not mention that we will be needing them if we are to continue to house illegal immigrants like his aunt. The President also praised Patrick for having increased the number of public school employees in Massachusetts. No praise was apparently due to private sector workers of Massachusetts whose taxes paid for the new teachers’ union members and new housing units. No praise was given to Massachusetts taxpayers who have paid for Aunt Zeituni’s housing for the last six years.
It is unclear why Massachusetts voters love a politician who promises to expand federal spending. According to the Tax Foundation, Massachusetts receives only 82 cents in federal spending for every dollar of taxes paid. The bigger the federal government, the poorer we will become. A politician in New Mexico ($2.20 in spending per dollar paid in taxes) or Maine ($1.41) could be expected to vote for additional federal programs, but why would we want to pay taxes to build pork barrel projects on the other side of the continent?
Deval Patrick received $600,000 from donors who wanted to lunch with Obama. Federal taxpayers probably spent at least $2 million on transportation and security for the President. Commoners suffered lost wages and productivity when they found subway stations closed, streets closed, their scheduled airline flight stopped at Logan, etc. Local flight schools alone suffered at least $10,000 in lost revenue. It would be a lot cheaper if we said that every day for the next 8 years the federal government will write a $1 million check to the person of Barack Obama’s choice and in return the President will agree to stay at his desk and work.
After the fundraiser, Obama stopped by MIT with his lawyer friends Deval Patrick and John Kerry. The transcript of the talk reveals that this speech about renewable energy credits two dozen politicians. John Kerry is “an all-star” who is “[working on legislation to] make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America” . Abe Lincoln “designated a system of land grant colleges”. FDR “signed the GI Bill”. Senators are praised for working with the all-star Kerry. Representative Ed Markey “deserves a big round of applause” for passing legislation relating to energy.
Was anyone left out of the talk? No scientists or engineers were mentioned, except for a couple of guys who served on Obama’s council of advisors. According to the troika of lawyers on the dais, all scientific and engineering innovation is apparently due to the efforts of politicians like themselves.
Does it make sense to credit technical achievements to lawyer-politicians? Consider that, since the Enlightenment, scientists and engineers have worked successfully in monarchies in England and France, in feudal systems in more fragmented European countries, on expeditions with Napoleon, under Communist rule in Russia and China, for Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, and here in the U.S. under whatever we’re calling our present system of government. Isaac Newton was a member of the Royal Society, but I don’t remember King Charles II taking credit for the Principia.
Who are my heroes of renewable energy? Let’s limit this to starting in the year 1900 so that we don’t have to reflect on our own inadequacies compared to Newton, Maxwell, Gauss, et al.
We’ll consider electricity first. Let’s thank Oleg Vladimirovich Losev, inventor of the LED. To keep some of the Obama spirit in my speech, I’ll also thank Marx and Lenin for creating the Soviet Union that enabled Mr. Losev to do his important work under a political system that inspired our own planned economy today. M. Stanley Whittingham and John B. Goodenough, inventors of the lithium-ion battery; if we had better batteries, all of the rest of our energy problems would be simple to solve. Karl Alexander Muller and Johannes Georg Bednorz for their work on high temperature superconductors that enable low-loss electric power lines. Julius Edgar Lilienfeld, inventor of the transistor, and then all of the silicon nerds who enabled us to run millions of transistors at the cost of just a few watts.
Things with a lot of parts? Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, and his colleagues for figuring out how to make machines that don’t break; it saves a lot of energy if you can use an automobile for 20 years instead of 7. For more modern heros, Wang Chuan-Fu, the founder of Shezhen-based startup battery company BYD, and Warren Buffett, who recently added $230 million in financing for BYD’s line of electric cars (story).
Can innovation and energy independence be achieved by expanding government, celebrating politicians who spend taxpayer money, and spending $52 billion per year on homeland security (partly by running 4,400 Secret Service agents around the U.S. to partisan fundraisers)? I sure hope so.