By Chuck Hobbs
ABOVE PHOTO: President Barack Obama makes a statement regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Monday, June 14, 2010, at the Coast Guard Station in Gulfport, Miss.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Next Sunday will mark the 60th day since BP’s Deepwater Horizon Rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, costing 11 lives and untold Billions of dollars in damage to what has been called the greatest ecological disaster in U.S. History.
The politicization of the spill began almost immediately, with some conservatives calling the spill “Obama’s Katrina.” In the eyes of many Americans, including my own, the Obama administration seemed slow in its initial reaction to this matter.
After two months of watching barrels of oil choke off marine life and commercial livelihoods there has arisen certain truths that only the most solipsistic among us can deny.
The first and most obvious is that Obama is not infallible, but is working hard to ameliorate the impact of this spill.
The second is that despite Obama’s sincere efforts, government alone cannot fix the spill at hand, but it certainly can do more to prevent future spills.
Perhaps no one issue better captures the divide between progressives and conservatives is the role of government. With respect to the oil spill, we all know that the government cannot breathe life back into the deceased or remove the oil that is damaging wetlands and sea life across the Gulf Region with a stroke of a wand.
Recently, while listening to Sean Hannity, I found it telling to almost hear glee in his voice as he exclaimed that Obama is “not the Messiah.”
No progressives that I know, even Obama, other than in jest, ever tried to intimate that the president has super human powers.
What Obama does have is the world’s greatest bully pulpit. Whether he occupies it for six more years or only two really is irrelevant; the main issue is that he eschew trying to please conservatives and advocate policies that will lead to greater Federal oversight and/or regulations on offshore drilling.
Sometimes it takes a mess of monumental proportions, such as this spill, to truly understand that discussions about “individualism” and “liberty” are wonderful topics for academic or theoretical debate. But from the dawn of the Industrial Age to now it is clear that, if left unfettered, corporations will place their insatiable desire for pecuniary gain over public safety.
This is not an attack against Capitalism in and of itself, but like many “isms”, the system is only as perfect or as flawed as those practicing it. And when greedy company owners are only concerned about the bottom line—lives can and often are lost when corners are cut as corporate honchos recklessly pursue maximum profitability.
We have certainly seen and read as much regarding the Deepwater Horizon Spill.
Recently released documents from the House Energy and Commerce Committee show that BP officials were aware of “several problems” on the rig prior to its explosion and “responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts and the installation of key safety devices.”
Democrat Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak declared in a joint statement that “Time after Time it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense.”
Such gross disregard of the safety and welfare of others will likely subject BP to billions in punitive damages should any one of several lawsuits that are pending or waiting to be filed proceed to trial in the Gulf Region. The fear that some fisherman, restaurant owners and their lawyers have is that BP, despite still earning billions of dollars in profit each day, will take the cowardly way out of this situation by declaring Bankruptcy.
This concern, in part, has created interesting political bedfellows in that Florida’s conservative Attorney General Bill McCollum and President Obama have separately demanded that BP provide a fixed amount of money to set up a victim’s damages fund. And having met with several clients who are commercial fisherman and seafood wholesalers I can attest that for some, BP’s internal claims process has been an exercise in futility.
While kudos must be extended to the president for his recent trips to the Gulf Region where he has met with local leaders and residents in an effort to better understand the long-term impact of this disaster, one can only hope that in his Oval Office address that he outlines policies that will provide more stringent standards with respect to offshore drilling while setting up permanent measures to help reinvigorate business in the area. This could be accomplished through a series of tax cuts and breaks to impacted businesses; low interest grants and loans to those needing to supplement existing businesses or establish new ones; or low interest student loans for workers needing to gain new skills or to shift into new trades.