Manufacturers lobby: 'Don't tread on my subsidized batteries' 

The National Association of Manufacturers is upset about proposed regulations "that would make air shipment of lithium-ion batteries more slow and expensive, damaging the nascent U.S. industry’s global competitiveness."

NAM's blogger Carter Wood makes a good point. If "Green Jobs" are so important to the administration, maybe the Obama administration should dial back some regulations that get in their way.

It's the Obama way, though, to subsidize and regulate rather than to let things be. Laissez Faire doesn't let the wise politicians steer. Subsidize-Regulate does. The free market leaves consumers and investors in charge. The subsidy-regualtion cycle leaves the bureaucrats and politicians in charge -- and that is evidently what President Obama thinks is best.

But there's also a lesson here for the manufacturers: if you want allies in your fight against regulation, maybe stop asking for all the handouts. Michigan's "Battery Boulevard," about which Wood blogs here, is swimming in your tax dollars. Here are some details from the Mackinack Center's Jack McHugh:

Yesterday, President Barack Obama and Gov. Jennifer Granholm came to Holland bearing gifts: cash subsidies for an electric car battery plant owned by the Korean firm LG Chem. The federal contribution is $151 million in "stimulus" money, and Michigan taxpayers are kicking in another $100 million in cash (plus more later)....

Massachusetts-based A123 Systems will also receive $100 million from the state for a facility it has leased in Romulus. At least three other "green energy" plants may also have their own previously authorized $100 million-plus "refundable tax credits" converted into outright cash handouts under a recent law authorizing tax-exempt "renaissance zone" status for their operations....

A123 Systems, which is also the beneficiary of a $249 million federal grant, plans to hire around 300 at its Romulus operation.

The Subsidize-Regulate business model of the Obama administration surely is folly, but the Subsidize-and-don't-Regulate business model favored by NAM is hardly defensible, either.

But it is also not new. About eight years ago I asked NAM President Jerry Jasinowski if he would give up his subsidies in exchange for rolling back harmful regulations. Jasinowski wasn't ready to take that deal. Until industry lobby is ready to make that deal, it's sometimes hard for free-market advocates to care about them.

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Timothy P. Carney

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