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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/3/10

BP Catastrophe As Metaphor: Those We Elect Don't Give a Crap About Our Interests

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The oil spill in the Gulf was not merely an accident. It could have been easily prevented had Tony Hayward (Chief Executive of BP Oil) and his sociopathic cohorts chosen to install certain safety mechanisms. But with the bottom line in mind, BP chose not to install them, even though the cost of doing so amounted to no more than a fraction of a single day's profits.

BP decided that the risk of an "accident" was worth it. And our congressional representatives cheered Tony on. Though BP is responsible for cleaning up the mess, current law only holds BP liable for $75 million (again, less than BP hauls in in a single day) in economic damages to other businesses, which is already estimated to be in the billions. Beyond that $75 million for which BP is liable, these businesses have no legal recourse to recoup their losses.

As a result of this, you can rest assured that this will happen again. The $75 million liability our government imposes on BP is but a drop in BP's oceanic profits. As one critic recently put it, "oil spills are just a cost of doing business for BP."

Why? Because those we elected to look out for our interests don't give a crap about our interests. Except for some very few, our lawmakers are in the pocket of the oil industry no less than they are in the pocket of Wall Street. The bribery that runs so rampant in third world countries that it has become a caricatured stereotypical mainstay of Hollywood, has here, in all too real off-screen America, been institutionalized at the highest levels of government. The politicians take kickbacks from the corporate sector to fund their campaigns in exchange for passing laws that favor their corporate masters.

The recently passed Health Care Reform Bill is a prime example. The health insurance industry made out like bandits. The government run single-payer option (Medicare for all), which polls indicated the public favored, but which posed a grave threat to the health insurance industry, was never even part of the debate. And the next best thing -- the much talked about "public option" -- which would have given the health insurance industry a healthy competitive run for its money, barely even made it out the starting gate. Instead, the insurance industry was guaranteed 30 million new customers under penalty of law.

We are soon to see a re-run of this disgraceful performance with the Financial Reform Bill, ostensibly designed to reign in Wall Street. The financial sector has released its army of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, and, after all the backroom wheeling and dealing is done, you can be sure the final bill will be but a shadow of its former self. If you had any hope that those "too big to fail" banks -- Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo -- might be cut down to size to discourage the kind of high-risk behavior that eviscerated our economy, you can forget it. Even as the bill now stands, these mega-banks are protected, and should any future high-risk behavior on their part again send our economy tumbling, this new "reform" bill guarantees their continued survival by way of more taxpayer bailouts. In other words, the new reform bill institutionalizes and encourages the very behavior that got us into this mess in the first place. And keep in mind that Wall Street has yet to even show all its cards. Its army of lobbyists have yet to make their last minute, behind closed doors offers -- the kind of offers that most congressional leaders with an eye toward re-election just can't refuse.

And when we turn to those appointed to run our government's "watchdog" regulatory agencies the situation is no better. Having no campaigns to fund, the regulators may not take money as the politicians do, but, once their regulatory stint is done, many do manage to land jobs as highly paid lobbyists and consultants in the very industries they were entrusted to oversee as government regulators. Apparently, turning a blind eye to industry violations of government regulations is a very effective way of sprucing up one's rà sumà . And, of course, this is a two-way street. You are as likely to find government regulators with strong industry backgrounds and connections as you are to find industry lobbyists and consultants who made their bones on the regulatory circuit. If ever there was a case of the fox guarding the henhouse, this is it.

As a result of all this, no law required BP to install the safety mechanisms that could have prevented the disaster in the Gulf. Our elected officials are well aware of the need for such a law, but they also know that if they don't want to be at a disadvantage come election time they had better pay homage to Big Oil's deep pockets. Of course, the regulatory agency responsible for providing oversight to the oil industry could have pressed Congress for the kind of stringent regulations that should have been in place here, but doing so would have been a very poor career decision.

So there you have it. Three decades of free-market ideological crap (beginning with Reagan), and a "revolving door" between government and industry, has rendered our government impotent, except as a subservient junior partner of Industry and Finance, both of which have, essentially and effectively, become their own "regulators."

These are the regulatory agencies that the Tea Party crowd would like to see dismantled altogether. But what would be the point? The regulators are already shamefully doing the bidding of their corporate masters anyway. So the Tea Partiers can stop embarrassing themselves with all their ridiculous hysterics, and just go home. We need stronger regulatory oversight of finance and industry, not weaker. Any "too-big-to-fail" financial institution whose greedy high-risk practices can send our entire global economy into a tailspin (Wall Street), or any industry whose greed-driven risky practices can destroy an entire coastline's ecosystem (Big Oil), must be prevented from doing so with strong, unyielding regulations, enforced by regulators whose integrity is beyond reproach.

Anyway, the Gulf oil spill was no accident. It's the result of very deliberate decisions made by self-serving, covetous, cold-hearted, predatory, unrestrained, greedy corporate executives; groveling, impotent, bought-and-sold politicians; and servile, ass-kissing regulators.

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Short Bio: Rob Quinn taught Philosophy for ten years at the University of Oklahoma (OU), and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). Prior to this he worked as a therapist in an in-residence psychiatric facility for disturbed young children. (more...)

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