Why would a President and his administration, who have criticized corporate welfare and have presided over the largest rise in America’s fiscal deficit in history shower nearly $4 billion on an industry that doesn’t need it?
For the same reason they do everything: Control, Ego and Self-Advancement (or is it Greed?).
Control: Directly subsidizing any company brings the government into the decision process. Any federal grant or loan comes with a dizzying array of mandates and restrictions. The combination of the Regulatory State and threatening to withhold subsidies has become the main conduit for social policy in this country. The critical first step is getting an organization, whether it is a local government, a non-profit, or a private enterprise hooked up to the IV-drip of federal dollars.
Ego: Has there been a President more obsessed than his own image as hip and trendy as Barack Obama? Only John F. Kennedy could compare as a popular culture and elitist phenomenon. In contrast to Obama, however, Kennedy was relatively effortless – there was none of the obsessive grasping, nor any appearances on vapid talk shows. Obama craves not just the spotlight, but an image as being in the vanguard of the future. But Obama’s future is whatever is trending on Twitter. Hopping on the self-driving car bandwagon is just something to affirm his own relevance and stoke his own ego.
Self-Advancement: Part and parcel of Obama’s obsession with trendiness is his own Administration’s interest in placing themselves within the tech industry for their own financial advancement. Silicon Valley tech firms have vacuumed up former Obama Administration staffers for their government affairs departments. These companies have seen that companies who thrived in the marketplace can be short-circuited by the government – and that using the coercive power of the federal government can yield big profits. And, the executive staff in the Administration have been eager to enter their service.
Make no mistake, autonomous vehicles could be a revolutionary advancement in transportation. But the fact is that the technology side is moving along just fine without federal funding. The real reasons for Obama’s proposed multibillion dollar subsidy have nothing to do with embracing the future or “jump-starting” a critical technology and everything to do with craven self-promotion and the accumulation of power.