Congress’ light bulb ban is creating jobs (in China)

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Tight credit, reduced spending, and a host of symptoms of the poor economy have pummeled businesses large and small, and workers are feeling it with 9.6 percent unemployment. Unable to find credit to expand or even endure bad times and unable to find customers willing to spend, companies are forced to lay off workers. Two hundred employees of a plant in Winchester, Va., will soon join the millions of American unemployed.

The Winchester 200 weren’t working for a small, struggling company. In fact, their employer, GE, is one of the world’s most robust corporations. They weren’t manufacturing high-end computers, super colliders, or luxury consumer goods Americans don’t feel they need or can afford. Instead, their product is on the shopping list of tens of thousands of Americans at this very moment. They made “old-fashioned” incandescent light bulbs. They have lost their jobs not through market failure but because Washington policy makers capriciously decided to give them the boot. Writes the Post:

“Everybody’s jumping on the green bandwagon,” said Pat Doyle, 54, who has worked at the plant for 26 years. But “we’ve been sold out. First sold out by the government. Then sold out by GE.”

Certainly the “big idea” was that by incentivizing the use of those twisty florescent light bulbs, enough new jobs in the “green economy” would be created to absorb those who worked their whole lives producing the old incandescent standby. There is a lesson here. Always fear the Washington “big idea” as such ideas are consistently disconnected from “reality.” Remember this maxim: those who can do, those who can’t teach, and those who can’t teach get jobs as congressional staffers.

The problem with the “big idea” wasn’t that the florescent bulb industry wouldn’t expand. It did. In China. Those two hundred American workers in Winchester, Va., are out of luck.

That’s why we’ve introduced H.R. 6144, the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which repeals the ban on the incandescent bulb that has been turning back the night ever since Thomas Edison ended the era of a world lit only by fire in 1879. It’s as simple as that, though technically it repeals Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The unanticipated consequence of the ’07 act — layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession — is what sometimes happens when politicians think they know better than consumers and workers. From the health insurance you’re allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.

We believe that the consumer, not Washington, is capable of deciding which light bulb works best. Democrats, however, believe that you just can’t be trusted to make the right decision. If Democrats want to show the folks back home that they understand the pent-up frustration in this country, they’ll start by supporting our bill.

Rep. Joe Barton (R) represents Texas’ Sixth Congressional District.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) represents Tennessee’s Seventh Congressional District.  Rep. Michael Burgess (R) represents the Texas’ Twenty-Sixth Congressional District.