You know it's the height of election season when one candidate is criticizing the other for doing the exact same thing that he or she did.
Pete Hoekstra, the former Republican congressman hoping to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in November, slammed Stabenow on Tuesday for seeking stimulus money for A123 Systems Inc., an electric-car battery maker that just filed for bankruptcy. The company previously received a $249 million federal grant.
"Obama and Stabenow choose badly, A123 files for bankruptcy. There go a few more 100 million of our $s. Debbie replies Don't worry, be happy!" Hoekstra tweeted. He soon followed with another tweet: "Obama/Stabenow choose badly with $s borrowed from China! A123 goes bankrupt and our kids are left holding the bag. Enough is enough!"
You can probably guess the punch-line -- Hoekstra was in Congress in 2009, and signed on to a bipartisan effort, urging the Obama administration to support A123. "Establishing a North American battery center of gravity in Michigan will significantly improve the federal government's ability to more swiftly meet its ambitious vehicle electrification goals," the Republican said at the time. The Obama administration agreed, and the company received the assistance.
In other words, Hoekstra is condemning Democrats for taking Hoekstra's advice and investing in a company Hoekstra said deserved support.
As for the larger point, the underlying argument is equally problematic. The federal government invested in a series of American companies, hoping to help grow an important industry and keep the nation competitive globally. Some of those companies thrived, some didn't, but were it not for the Obama administration, all of those companies would have failed. Hoekstra's argument makes it sound as if all grants to all companies are necessarily a bad idea, which is a pretty awful approach to federal support of business investment.
As Michael Grunwald put it awhile back, "That's capitalism. That's lending. That's life. As one Obama aide told me: Some students who get Pell grants are going to end up drunks on the street." It's not as if those failures discredit the entire Pell grant program.
Update: Also note that A123 arranged to sell its assets/manufacturing plants to a competing American company, and production will continue, so the larger hit will be far less severe.