The labor department announced today that it had approved Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for the former employees of the bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra.
That means all of the firm’s 1,100 ex-employees are eligible for federal aid packages, including job retraining and income assistance. The department has valued packages at about $13,000 a head ($14.3 million total). (Source: Investors.com)
The TAA is a program that compensates businesses and employees impacted by unfair trade practices committed by foreign companies that compete with American businesses. Solyndra and other US solar panel companies are claiming (rightfully so, most likely) that China is undercutting US panel makers with cheaper panels. Under this program, companies can file a claim with the Department of Labor and receive so sort of aid package. In the case of Solyndra, the package is for the ex-employees to get retraining.
Solyndra has been a money pit for the American taxpayer. First off, they were given a $535 million dollar loan even though it is becoming increasing clear that the company was already well on its way to insolvency. When it appeared that Solyndra was going to have difficulties paying back the origianl loans, the loan package was reworked and included private monies. To attract the private investors, the government guaranteed these private investors would not lose their $75 million. Once the company folded, the private investors were given back their investment, while the taxpayer can expect to see not one thin dime of the half-a-billion dollar "loan." Now we are on the hook for another $14 million.
I don’t completely begrudge the retraining assistance to the ex-employees, although I am a capitalist at heart (businesses make it on their own). When you throw in how China is undercutting American businesses with unfair practices, I am even less inclined to rally against these grants. But I will have to say this: When you consider the labor costs involved maybe the American workers needs to understand with our high wages, American businesses are already at a disadvantage against foreign competition. Don’t get me wrong, I do not advocate that we roll wages to the level of the Chinese worker, but it still something that we have to account for when competing against other countries.