Self-proclaimed patriot Michelle Bachmann does not like the government’s tyrannical treatment of a British Oil Company.
“The president just called for creating a [BP escrow] fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund,” said Bachmann. “And now it appears like we’ll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government.”
Also, David Weigel reports that Bachmann also said: “They have to lift the liability cap. But if I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”
When it’s the parent trying to get health care for her child, or the misled homeowner signing the adjustable rate mortgage, it becomes all about ’personal responsibility’ and the ‘market.’ Basically, screw ‘em. Yet when it comes to the poor, vulnerable multi-national energy companies, the political elite (particularly on the Right) fall all over themselves trying to protect the precious and actual gate-keepers of 21st century America.
What people like Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner believe in is not a free-market, level playing field. They believe in a system where corporate powerhouses reap the rewards of capitalism without being on the hook for any of risks associated with their behavior (except for campaign donations). Consolidate money and power. Privatize the gains and Socialize the losses. It was exemplified first with bailout for Wall St and a watered-down reform bill that looks to be a half-ass attempt on behalf of both the White House and the majority of Congressional Dems. It’s further magnified by the GOP’s response to the oil spill.
Let’s address 2 things…
1. The primary cause of the Gulf Oil Spill is BP, and BP alone (with assists from Transocean and Halliburton – they can really dish it).
Like the recent West Virginia mine collapse, this is a simple case or sacrificing safety to increase profit margin. That’s it. They knew about faulty equipment for weeks and chose not to do anything about it. Additional safeguards were dismissed because of cost. “BP violated safety regulations and protocols when they removed some very heavy safety fluid from the drilling pipe, fluid which was supposed to prevent exactly what happened. The removal of that fluid caused the pressure blast that sank the Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 people.”
According to a “60 Minutes” interview  with a survivor, part of the blowout preventer’s seal broke during an accident  weeks before the explosion. A Transocean supervisor, when told of the problem, said it was “no big deal,” and operations continued despite several such equipment problems.
The rig worker also told “60 Minutes” that BP and Transocean managers had been jostling over who was in charge in the hours before the spill, disagreeing on how to seal the well. One expert told “60 Minutes” that BP’s method—faster, but riskier —may have set the stage for the blowout. Halliburton was the subcontractor handling the cementing process on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which it completed shortly before the explosion .
2. The secondary cause of the oil spill is the 30 year destruction of our regulatory system, first accelerated by the Reagan administration and perfected by the last Bush administration.
Anyone who has read Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew knows the horrific details about the Right’s defunding, destruction and/or co-opting of America’s once-strong regulatory system on behalf of various industry interests. These interests run counter to almost every American not connected to K-Street, or to the plutocrats currently in charge. An overview…
The great fear that hung over the business community in the 1970s was death by regulation, and the great goal of the conservative movement, as it rose to triumph in the 1980s, was to remove that threat–to keep OSHA, the EPA, and the FTC from choking off entrepreneurship with their infernal meddling in the marketplace.
Defunding those agencies was one way to stop the killer bureaucrats; another was to stuff them full of business-friendly personnel who would go easy on regulated. The signature conservative regulatory idea became “voluntary enforcement”, because everyone now knew that efficient markets regulated themselves. Bad practices or tainted products drove away consumers; therefore firms had an incentive to behave, an incentive far more powerful than some top-down scheme in which big brother told them what to do.
Whether people ever truly believed this nonsense or not, its application over the years makes up the basic story of conservative governance as I tell it in my book, The Wrecking Crew. This is the philosophy by which conservatives gutted the EPA and the Labor Department, turned over the Interior Department and the FDA to the industries they were supposed to regulate, let the CEO of Enron advise the vice president on energy policy, and generally came to regard business, not the public, as government’s “customer” (a word that crops up with disturbing frequency in conservative regulatory history).
This can be seen in the recent actions of the MMS…
But in a hearing last week, one MMS official said the agency left it to oil companies to certify  that blowout preventers were working properly. The official said the agency “‘highly encouraged,’ but did not require,” companies to have backup systems to trigger blowout preventers in case of an emergency,” according to The Wall Street Journal. That led to this gem of an exchange :
“Highly encourage? How does that translate to enforcement?” Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen, who is co-chairing the investigation, asked at the hearings.
“There is no enforcement,” Mr. Saucier replied.
The MMS official also testified that in 2001, new rules were drafted to tighten monitoring of offshore drilling and lay out requirements for blowout preventers, but the rules were never approved by higher-ups in Washington .
The Minerals Management Service—an agency within the Department of the Interior—has a rather mixed record . In 2008, the regulator was involved in a sex and drug scandal  with oil and gas company representatives. Since then, the agency has also been criticized for understating the risks of oil spills  in its plans to expand drilling off the coast of Alaska. A government investigation also concluded that an office at MMS withheld data on offshore drilling from environmental risk assessors in the agency .
Idealistic notions about free market and deregulation all sound great in theory. And the GOP has spent decades hammering home the idea that the soul-less, nation-less market will take care of Americans, and government is only there to interfere and piss away the money of hard-working Americans.
While I acknowledge and detest government waste as much as the next guy, spending money on rebuilding our decrepit and outdated regulatory system is a necessity. We need more regulators, better regulators, and a divorce of government from industry in the regulatory context. Government should serve the public, not the multinationals.
Whether it’s a bridge collapse, e-coli outbreak, mine explosion, or whatever, it’s just a matter of time before the next ‘shocking’ tragedy occurs and can be traced back to a lapse in regulation. And when it happens, the politicians will all get up to holler indignantly about how the government failed to detect problem X. Then they’ll sit back down and count the checks from whatever industry moneychanger that is funding the next campaign. That’s too bad.