Losing $500 million was just another day at the office for U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
It's official: Everything about the federal government's backing of a loan to California-based Solyndra was A-OK.
There were no mistakes of judgment. There was no improper influence on the loan process by connected politicos. Everything was done exactly as it should be.
So testified U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week when he appeared before a congressional committee. It was almost as if the $500 million-plus loss of taxpayers' money, which Chu described as "unfortunate," was an afterthought.
Unfortunate? It was obviously that and a lot more.
At least that's how the average Joe would see it. In the real world, perpetrators of such a financial failure would not just be apologizing and begging forgiveness but updating their resumes.
In the federal government, it's standard operating procedure.
One shocking disclosure from the congressional hearing is that the feds have set aside $10 billion in anticipation of further financial catastrophes like the Solyndra loan. That's roughly 19 more failed investments in private companies like the one made in Solyndra, a solar-energy equipment manufacturer. So get ready for more bad news.
Members of Congress have been investigating this failed example of a public/private partnership based on indications that the September 2009 government-backed loan guarantee was made because company backers were close politically to the Obama administration.
There clearly was some political influence in this matter. Why, for instance, was repayment of the government loan given second-tier status behind any repayment to private investors? That almost guarantees the loss of taxpayer money.
But the real scandal is the federal government getting involved in supporting selected private enterprises, particularly when the profits go to the private investors and the losses go to the taxpayers.
This is the bank bailout all over again, except most of the banks bailed out still are in business and taxpayers have been or will be repaid. The Solyndra money is gone, and the people responsible don't appear to have learned anything from the experience.