In two areas the Obama Administration has been proving itself too clever by half. It had hoped to score a double play by subsidizing "green" energy companies and forcing Catholic institutions into a once-size-fits-all contraception policy. Instead, both efforts have produced unwanted results.
Almost from Inauguration Day, Obama's Department of Energy has been giving loans and loan guarantees to solar, wind and car battery companies. Normal due diligence by a private venture capital company would have denied (and probably did) loans to several of these, but this didn't stop the DoE. It was driven, after all, by the religion of Environmentalism, whose worshipers had given Obama so many votes in 2008 and continued to insist that Americans must be made to use less gasoline and industry must be made to use less energy to produce its goods.
Today seven or so of the energy companies that received the taxpayer-funded loans are now in bankruptcy, led by Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer, which received half-a-billion dollars.
The fact that the Bush Administration had decided against a loan to Solyndra was ignored by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Mr. Chu is a respected physicist, but has no known business experience.
What business does the U.S. Government have dabbling in venture capital investments? None.
Private providers are very careful in assessing risks before investing in new ventures. Even then, some don't pan out. Most do and, in either case, it is private money at risk, not yours.
Just as ideology drove the unwise energy loans, so it has driven the Department of Health and Human Services edict that Catholic-owned hospitals, schools, colleges and charities must provide free contraception devices and services (including "morning after" pills) in all employees' health insurance policies. This is in opposition to the Catholic Church's long-held position on contraception.
A huge backlash has ensued following this edict, and it is far from over. Obama's minions were counting on the fact that many Catholics are not personally opposed to contraception and may practice it. What they overlooked was that this mandate forces Catholic institutions to choose between their consciences and the Department of HHS. Catholic bishops and many lay members -- as well as Protestants, Jews and others -- see this as an abridgment of religious freedom as protected by the First Amendment.
The pro-abortion forces, led by Planned Parenthood, have tried to frame the issue as one of "women's health." It is not. A large number of people -- many of them not Catholics -- are employed by the Catholic institutions targeted by the administration. Catholic Charities, a network of social services organizations, for example, has more than 70,000 employees. There is no record of an employee of this or any other Catholic institution, quitting because the institution's health insurance policies did not include free contraception devices. (Note: when we were young, this writer's wife purchased a contraception device recommended by her doctor. Health insurance policies did not provide free ones.)
Like the energy loans, this edict was driven by the ideology of Obama's left-liberal base which is driving towards it goal of "single-payer" (that is, federal government-controlled) health care. The edict was a far riskier tactic than the Obama forces had estimated. It could result in a major loss of Catholic votes in November.
Obama and his circle seem intent on forcing all elements of civil society into becoming vassals -- if not wards -- of the federal government, just as many of its policies seem designed to increase the number of American dependent upon that government. If he is reelected in November, it is likely he will succeed.
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