Reagan began the deregulation craze. During his Administration, and for years afterwards, Republicans disparaged the Federal Government as increasingly intrusive and counter productive to free enterprise. The S&L's, California's Power and Utility Commission and more recently, Wall Street's Commercial Banks, crashed and burned as a direct result of deregulation. Americans were left with the bill.
Dick Cheney's closed door energy meetings with oil companies and electrical power providers worked out well for Big Oil and Enron, but not so well for American taxpayers who had to pick up the pieces when, as Alan Greenspan liked to say, "they got over exuberant." The Bush Administration started two wars that far too Americans enthusiastically endorsed. Many applauded each time the Federal Government threw out another regulation to allow unfettered capitalism full reign.
The Republican Parties message of less government and ever lower taxes proved a winning combination. If Democrats hoped to win elections they knew they must move further to the right. Clinton understood this as does Obama. Grover Norquist, an anti-tax crusader and far right Republican famously said, 'My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." One of the results of that drowning can be seen unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.
Horrified Americans are beginning to understand the enormity of the catastrophe that B.P. has set loose upon the world. Americans are justifiably outraged, but it is they who subscribe to Limbaugh, Beck, and the Fox News crowd. Americans put the Republicans in charge of Congress in 1996. In 2000 they stood idly by as an immoral neer do well snuck through the back door and into the White House. In ensuing years regulations, and the oversight of polluters, took a back seat to corporate profit.
Public outrage over B.P's reckless criminal conduct grows daily while environmentalists and global warming scientists are dismissed by the right as crackpots. Fox News won a decision by an appeals court in Florida that ruled Fox "had no obligation to report truthfully, and the First Amendment protects their right to lie." Last January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "The court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations." Giving corporations personhood, to allow them unlimited spending on candidates running for elective office, will give them even more power over Congress and the President, and give them a green light to work in direct opposition to American's interests.
It remains to be seen if the helpless rage over B.P's reckless, criminal conduct, makes a difference in how Americans see their government. The results of electing representatives who promise to get government off the backs of the poor, downtrodden corporations, is making itself felt again. But unlike Wall Street's slippery bunko games, the damage from B.P's spill is probably irreparable.