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OPINION

Obama's Take on U.S. Innovation

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The problem with left-leaning elites trying to run the U.S. economy from the top down is simple: They think the answer to America's economic woes is to create more jobs that replicate managers just like them.

They cannot comprehend that, to a good number of American voters, the theme of President Obama's State of the Union address -- government innovation -- is an oxymoron.

And so they nodded their heads in recognition of their own greater wisdom as the president intoned, "We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people." As if more of the same deficit spending is the answer.

They fail to recognize that so-called green jobs are the most over-hyped jobs in America. (After years of subsidies and special treatment, they represent 174,000 jobs -- less than 1 percent of the total -- in California, according to the public policy group Next 10.)

In light of the country's high unemployment rate, you would think it would make more sense for the administration to focus on creating jobs in industries that hire lots of workers. But many of those sectors -- manufacturing, energy production -- don't reflect liberal politics. So Obama is big on "jobs of the future."

Research and development -- who can argue with spending money on that?

Except that in this economy, technology and environmental research means funneling government money into high-profile projects staffed by like-minded college graduates, a group with an unemployment rate of about 5 percent. Then, if the project actually produces something commercially viable, the new gadgets can be manufactured by low-skilled workers in a sustenance-wage corner of the world. Think solar power and China.

This is not an anti-government rant. Washington has, and should have, the lead role in national defense, interstate transportation, public safety, a safety net for the truly needy and more.

But as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., put it in the GOP response, "Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well."

For his part, the president is supposed to take control of the federal budget. Yet in his speech, Obama recognized that the government spends more than it takes in -- which is "not sustainable." Then he let it be known that he would not push the painful proposals set forth by his own bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

In effect, Obama passed on doing the toughest part of his job. Instead, having shirked the dirty work, the president prefers to choose which commercial enterprises deserve your tax dollars -- call them the winners who get money for endeavors they wouldn't do on their own dime -- and which businesses deserve only the honor of bankrolling his "jobs of the future" -- call them the losers.

I understand that compared to tackling the growing deficit, it's a lot easier to hand out grants and underwrite subsidies to like-minded venture capitalists, who are happy to soak up taxpayer dollars as they credit you for creating private-sector jobs.

But please, don't call it innovation.

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