Steve Jobs, Occupy Wall Street and Us

Apparently the greatest industrialist in American history was not always the nicest guy.

He yelled at people. He insisted they do it his way. He fired them if they did not. Sometimes he fired them if they did.

Steve Jobs set out to change the world though one simple goal: Perfection. He had to settle for excellence. He inspired a lot of people along the way.

Jobs would not have been welcome at the Occupy Wall Street protests.  He was a not a “wave your fingers in the air if you want to let me talk” kind of fellow.

Nor did he care a darn about creating jobs. Steve Jobs was all about creating excellent goods and services for people. The jobs were a side effect. Not a driving force.

From what anyone can tell, members of the Occupy Wall Street crowd think talking about creating jobs by waving your fingers is the same as actually creating jobs. Of course it is not. And if the Occupy Wall Street crowd would put down their iPads and iPhones for a moment, they can learn why by looking at a tale of two companies:

Twenty miles apart in the Silicon Valley sit two buildings: One is empty, funded by $535 billion of guaranteed government loans.

The other is a bustling campus that belongs to the largest publicly traded enterprise in the world; started by two guys in their mom’s garage. As for government guarantees, they were not even guaranteed their moms would let them work there.

One is thriving. The other is dead. One changed the world. The other may change an election. One is Apple. The other Solyndra.

Solyndra touted its solar panels as unique. Scientists saw little that was revolutionary, but the marketing people did not want to hear that. Neither did a bedazzled Department of Energy before it cut them a check for half a billion dollars.

A Livermore movie theater was one of the first to install the government funded solar panels. They were not as effective as advertised. But few knew. Or wanted to know.

Construction of Solyndra’s state-of-the art plant continued. Somehow it is human nature to be more lavish with other people’s money, something Jobs and Steve Wozniak never experienced.

Solyndra opened its “Taj Mahal” of plants in September 2010 with much fanfare. It was nothing like the Steve Jobs’ garage.  But it did have alternative energy A-Listers such as Governor Schwarzenegger and Vice President Biden.

For $535 million, Solyndra created 3,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs — that lasted one year.

The plant was closed one year later, on August 31, 2011. It was never close to breaking even.

Many knew that before Solyndra admitted it. In May of 2010, Solyndra’s own auditors issued as “going concern” letter  —  only issued when auditors believe that serious doubt exists that the company will survive beyond twelve months.

Mysteriously, this did not stop President Obama from showing up at Solyndra in May to hail it as a model for a bright new future in our economy.

He had the right idea. Just the wrong building.

Bill Gunderson

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