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Editorial Roundup - Excerpts from editorials around the nation - Sept. 23, 2011

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The Oregonian, Portland, Sept. 17, on solar manufacturer Solyndra — If hyperbole could turn a turbine, the lights of Washington would be burning bright. Republicans are spinning the collapse of the solar manufacturer Solyndra, the Obama administration darling that churned through a $535 million federal loan, into an attack on all of green energy.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of a House Energy subcommittee looking into Solyndra’s failure, claimed its downfall is an indictment of the “fervent religion of green jobs” and proves “that green energy isn’t going to be the solution.” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chimed in: “I question whether the government is qualified to act as a venture capitalist, picking winners and losers in speculative ventures.”

Solyndra may be a lot of things, including a deep embarrassment for the Obama administration, which has close ties to another major investor in the company, George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire who gave lavishly to Obama in 2008. But it is not cause for the U.S. government to abandon its green energy incentives and let others seize ever-more market share in one of the world’s few growing industries. ...

Of course, Solyndra is a failure, a costly one to American taxpayers. But it’s an isolated failure, something you’d never know from the overheated political reaction. The federal Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, which was created in 2005 with bipartisan support, has backed almost $38 billion in loans for 40 projects around the country. Some are solar projects, some wind. But the largest by far is an $8.8 billion loan for a nuclear plant in Georgia. So far, only one project — Solyndra — has failed. ...

The last thing a nation desperate for jobs, one home to entrepreneurs and inventors fighting as hard as they can to compete in the global energy sector, needs is for the U.S. government to suddenly and stupidly give up on green energy.

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The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sept. 17, on deficit-reduction transparency — With much at stake, the bipartisan congressional deficit-reduction committee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion more in budget savings by November should be operating in the open. It’s not.

Dave Loebsack, Iowa’s 2nd District congressman, wants to change that scenario. He rightly recognizes the intense lobbying the 12 lawmakers are getting from many organizations and industries.

So he’s introduced legislation that would require committee members to disclose all campaign contributions greater than $500 and all meetings with lobbyists within 48 hours of the donation or meeting. Otherwise, the donations wouldn’t have to be disclosed until Jan. 31. And meetings with lobbyists never have to be disclosed — as, sadly, is Congress’ general practice.

Loebsack also wants all committee meetings to be televised and streamed live on a congressional website.

We’re not confident that enough of Loebsack’s colleagues will get behind his proposal, but they should — especially the requirements for lobbyist disclosures. Many Americans see Congress as overly influenced by special interests. Transparency is simply accountability to all of the people lawmakers are supposed to serve.

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Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer, Sept. 17,  on confidence in government — There’s a lot more to this country than politics, and Americans’ belief in themselves and their government is not on the wane.

That conclusion might be drawn from the results of a recently released Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll.

The poll of 1,000 adults conducted Aug. 18-22 found that 63 percent believe the U.S. government is doing a good job of making sure we feel “safe, secure and free.” That is up 9 percentage points from a year ago. Even more — 72 percent — approve of the government’s performance in addressing both foreign and domestic threats. Only 53 percent believed so in 2010.

That statement of confidence in the nation’s capacity to protect us is in sharp contrast to the majority of poll respondents who expressed little or no confidence in the ability of politicians to effectively address serious issues such as health care and government spending.

In other words, we still have a lot of faith in the military and other government workers to look after the country’s best interests despite cynicism toward our elected leaders and their motives.

And we still believe in our own ability to help, with 70 percent of those polled saying they volunteer in order to try and make things better for their fellow Americans. ...

Americans’ can-do spirit is far from defeated.

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The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., Sept. 16, on Medicare — The other night, the leader of one of America’s great political parties came forth with a big “but” that ought to be noticed.

“But,” the president said in his speech to Congress, “here’s the truth.” And he then talked about Medicare.

It’s been little-noticed that Barack Obama was saying some things that many in his own party don’t want to hear about Medicare.

“Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future,” Obama said. “They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program.”

That kind of statement ought to be welcomed by Republicans, some of whom have been pilloried for saying similar things and backing a tough-on-Medicare budget resolution.

Of course, some of the same GOP members had dubiously trashed Obama’s health care bill last year as anti-Medicare, too.

The “but” was important, a political path to changes in Medicare to make it more sustainable before the financial tidal wave of baby boomer retirements breaks the health care system for everyone ...