We’re the government and we’re here to claim we helped you

Yesterday, President Obama visited the production plant of Thompson Creek, a window manufacturing company in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. The Thompson Creek name is well known to anyone who listens to sports on the radio in the DC area. Today, for example, I heard its ad while listening to a playoff football game on the way home from work.
Thompson Creek has grown substantially in the past two years – from 168 employees to 289. Obama’s appearance at the plant was an attempt to link its growth to the 2009 stimulus bill, which allows homeowners to write off as much as $1,500 on their income taxes by purchasing energy-efficient windows. The Washington Post got into the spirit of the occasion, contributing this headline: “Obama gets a crystal-clear view of economic stimulus’s effects.”
I don’t doubt that window companies might sell a few extra windows thanks to the tax write-off provision of the stimulus bill. But attributing Thompson Creek’s growth spurt to that bill seems far-fetched. The economy of the Washington DC area has been gaining steam and Thompson Creek has been outstripping its competitors. Owner Rick Wuest cites an emphasis on customer service and his firm’s efficient production model. I would also cite its relentless advertising.
Wuest also mentions the tax write-off, and I’m sure it hasn’t hurt. Note, however, that the home page of Thompson Creek’s web page says nothing about tax savings. Instead, it touts the aforementioned manufacturing process and customer service (the page pertaining specifically to windows lists the tax credit as the fourth reason to install the company’s replacement window).
If the stimulus bill were a major factor in Thompson Creek’s success, we would expect to see window manufacturers thriving across the county. But according to Wuest, this is not the case. “I have friends around the country and locally with similar businesses; they’re not all enjoying the success we have,” he says.
In sum, Thompson Creek seems to be succeeding the old fashioned way — by relying on traditional business virtues rather than government policy. Meanwhile, liberal politicians seem to be attempting to succeed their old fashioned way — by claiming credit they probably do not deserve.

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