Explaining Southern California's economy

Reportings: Big September for cars; boring iPhone; Solyndragate II; Michael Lewis

Are bailed-out and formerly bankrupt U.S. car companies now recession-proof? Both General Motors and Chrysler had a big September: "General Motors Co. said its U.S. sales jumped 20% to 207,145 vehicles compared with September 2010. Chrysler Group's sales surged 27% to 127,334 vehicles, marking the company's best September since 2007." (LAT)

Is the Apple iPhone too grown up to have a wow factor? "'Industrial design is important, but in these small packages we are starting to bump into the laws of physics,' said Tim Bajarin, a consultant with Creative Strategies Inc. 'You aren't going to do anything that I would consider radical in design and still get this feature set and function.'" (WSJ) 

Paul Krugman gets on China's case and highlights the massive U.S. trade deficit: "A return to economic health would look much more achievable if we weren’t spending $500 billion more each year on imported goods and services than foreigners spent on our exports." (NYT)  

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All Solyndra, all the time: A DeBord Report roundup

I've been going big on Solyndragate here at DeBord Report. It's a good story. It has everything: ideas about the future, money, politics, success, failure, Silicon Valley, Washington — and it's sucked in the Obama administration. It's also generated a lot of discussion and debate in the blog-o-sphere about both the specifics of the solar startup's abrupt bankruptcy and the role of government in financing green energy projects. Here's a rundown of what I've written so far:

Solyndra: Not about jobs, not about paybacks, but about…power

Think the Department of Energy is bunch of meek bureaucrats? Think again. It's a den of super-venture-capitalists who have been building up the thin-solar industry in America.

• Solyndragate: Picking winners will always be risky business

When you invest in new industries, you sometimes have to swing for the fences in order to capture major returns.

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Solyndra: Not about jobs, not about paybacks, but about…power

The Solyndragate feeding frenzy continues. There's blood in the water. The companies two top executives have taken the fifth in Congressional testimony. The Washington Post has done an expose. The New York Times has done an expose. The LA Times has done an expose after the Post and the New York Times did their exposes. Republicans are making plenty of noise about how Solyndra was somehow a corrupt undertaking designed to funnel taxpayer money to Obama supporters. It was also a stimulus boondoggle. And in California, it was a risky bet on precious few jobs.

My KPCC colleague and Pacific Swell blogger Molly Peterson and I have been talking about Solyndra for weeks. She provided a nice shout-out to several of the posts I've written on the topic at DeBord Report — and provided me with an opportunity to zero in on what's really going on with green energy funding.

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Solyndragate: Picking winners will always be risky business

There's now pretty much a frenzy of Monday-morning quarterbacking going on with the Solyndra controversy. It boils down to essentially two core positions:

  • Solyndra was too risky a bet for the DOE to pony up a $535-million loan guarantee. The Atlantic's Megan McArdle has been grappling with this one, in strenuous detail, while somewhat evading the question of whether Solyndra needed to spend as much money as possible in a short period of time, to both achieve economies of scale and outrun a collapse in the price of silicon (Solyndra's solar panels didn't use this material).
  • Solyndra was a risky bet, but in the face of $30 billion in Chinese solar investment, the U.S. needs to leverage its innovation advantage to capture its share of the solar market. The government needs to subsidiize some of the risks and be willing tolerate failure in and effort to build up a new Green energy sector. I'm on this side, as is Wired's Jonah Lehrer and the New York Times' Joe Nocera. 

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