Obama and the oil spill

In all fairness, I’d probably be more ready to place blame on George W. Bush than on Obama for this spill, but, regardless, there’s way too much attention focused on the president in this.  He’s the president, not Super Oil Removal Man.  And, I actually decided it would probably be, if not quite fair, somehow appropriate to blame Bush more if this had happened under his watch because it is Republican disdain for regulation and properly functioning government that allows events like this to happen.  All that said, this Miller-McCune piece makes a great point:

Amid the evolving debate about government’s role in the disaster cleanup — a debate that has drawn fine distinctions between who’s “responsible,” who’s “accountable” and who’s “in charge” — one thing officials haven’t said is the uncomfortable truth: Americans don’t actually want the kind of government that keeps on hand at all times billion-dollar deep-sea contingent equipment and the highly trained experts who know how to use it.

That’s a huge point.  The article nicely spins it out:

“Just imagine what would have happened six months ago if the president had suggested a new agency that would be trained and funded to clean up disasters like this, granted the authority to take over an oil well at the first sign of trouble, and this agency would be funded by a large tax on oil companies,” wrote University of North Dakota law professor Joshua Fershee on the Business Law Prof Blog. “You can be sure that the response would have been that the government shouldn’t be in this business because the oil companies are better trained, better prepared and better able to respond to such problems.”

Then imagine the infinite other highly technical low-probability contingencies for which government would have to bone up on behalf of private industry: coal-ash spills, mine collapses, chemical leaks, refinery explosions, factory fires, ship collisions.

Of course, in the aggregate, the American people are whiny children, and that’s what we have to deal with.  I wish we could at least be whiny pre-schoolers instead of whiny toddlers.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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