The Gulf Coast Oil Spill -- A Much Needed Wake-Up Call




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Don't worry about Wall Street. They'll police themselves and keep our money safe.

Don't worry about whether those coal mines meet safety standards. Mine owners will make sure those workers are protected.

Don't worry about those contaminated children's medications. Drug companies would never sell you anything that could hurt your kids.

Don't worry about those secret White House oil industry meetings. Our government would never make a deal that would endanger the coastlines, wildlife, or families who make their livings in those areas.

I know there are other lies we've been sold that have come back to haunt us recently, but I'm too tried just thinking about these to list any more.

But there is a way to keep these kinds of lies and deceptions in check -- it's called government regulation. I know, I know -- my conservative compatriots are going to scream about that, but huge corporations and businesses have proven time and time again they can't be trusted with the "free enterprise and competition are the only regulations we need" concept.

Many big corporations can't help themselves when it comes to increasing their profits at any cost, so there has to be a role for government in keeping them in check until those corporations can prove they can be trusted with our country's money, land, and lives.

You know -- sort of like the parenting rule that your teen doesn't get the keys to the family car unless and until they prove themselves responsible and careful. And then you still might follow them down your street so you can see how they're using their judgment and steering that car.

Just think where we'd be today if Congress hadn't repealed Glass-Steagall, if the appropriate agencies had punished coal mine owners who didn't want to be bothered spending money to keep their employees safe, if the FDA had spent a little more time inspecting those who make children's medicine, and if we had actually been privy to those secret White House oil meetings during the George W. Bush administration.

Why, we'd have more money for our kids' college educations, fewer deaths of loved ones, and a few more live dolphins.

There are plenty of conservatives who claim that government regulation is going to be the death of democracy as we know it. But it's become clear that for some, free enterprise is solely about the almighty dollar with little or no consideration to anything else, not even political ideology. If it wasn't, when it comes to the massive oil spill we've been experiencing in the Gulf of Mexico, it would have been stopped by now.

I don't buy the whole "we don't know how to stop this leak" story. I believe someone in the BP/Transocean/Halliburton triumvirate knows exactly how to stop it -- they just don't want to because if there's a way to save the well (or should I say the oil that's still gushing from the well) and make money in the future, they'll do whatever it takes to find it, no matter how many dolphins die, no matter how many people lose their livelihoods, and no matter the potential health consequences for those who live where the oil comes ashore.

Joanne Bamberger also writes the political blog, PunditMom, when she's not driving her fourth-grader to soccer practice and wondering how she's going to keep that fourth-grader busy for 12 weeks of summer vacation.

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Pundi... PunditMom

@lovinangels  No system is perfect, but if regulation isn't the asnwer and free enterprise isn't the answer, then what it?  If our country keeps going on the track it is, wem won't be the leader of the free world for long. --  Joanne

nonmember avatar SKL

Adding more government equals adding more bureaucracy, which equals adding more corruption.  Study international politics.  More government regulation just provides more opportunities, even necessity in some cases, for bribery and the like.  Which means no justice for the little guy.


We like to think that folks who bribe, etc., are bad people and we in the USA don't see much of this because we're good people.  Wrong.  People in bureaucratic countries will be put at the end of the line for years unless they buy into the system.  Eventually it is the very rare person who manages to keep himself out of the rampant corruption.  The little bit of corruption we have here is nothing in comparison.  At least consumers here generally expect/demand clean dealings and have other market choices so they can vote with their pocketbook.


The right way to make corporations accountable is to let informed consumers and a principled court system punish them for their misdeeds (e.g., make them pay for the cleanup - without a bailout) and reward them for their better choices.


Another thing.  We are all up in arms about what this mistake has caused.  (Which, so far, doesn't sound all that tragic to me.)  But, how many lives have been made better by offshore drilling?  Nobody mentions that.  I for one don't want to be owned by Venezuela; being owned by China is bad enough.

Pundi... PunditMom

So then what do we do to rein in the corruption in private business?  The bribes in businesses that impact us all and our tax dollars>  The whole informed consumer thing has never worked -- can you say Wall Street?  Washington cut regulation, said they could rely on the companies to honestly disclose things, hoping that investors could even understand, and we all see where that's gotten our economy.  The impact of that approach effects us all as a nation, not just as individuals.


Clearly, neither approach is perfect, but if we take that approach, should we also do away with criminal law enforcement and let the bank robbers turn themselves in as part of their disclosure requirements?


And calling what's happening in the Gulf a "mistake" is one I can't go along with.  How do you measure the "lives made better" but the devastation caused to the environment, people's livlihoods and their long term health?  If we don't want to be "owned" by other oil and coal producing countries, perhaps it's time to take different solutions seriously.

29again 29again

So, according to your view, ALL big business is evil and corrupt, and is ripping off the consumer.  There is not ONE honest ethical business owner out there, anywhere.  And this is all Bush's fault. 


Yes, there are corners cut, and short-cuts taken.  And we the people do find out, and the situation is pretty much in every instance corrected, and those who are slacking are punished.  I think that we do need SOME amount of regulation, but I also believe that the free market will correct itself when there is a problem.  The consumer is not as dumb as you seem to think s/he is.  I really do think the government needs to get out of the private sector, with a minimal amount of regulation.

nonmember avatar SKL

You need to be an informed, responsible and principled consumer.  If you didn't pay corporations to do what they do, they wouldn't do it.


The answers are - QUALITY education, PERSONAL accountability, freedom of speech, press, and assembly, and free markets, with a minimum of regulation (some is reasonable but we already have too much).


I find it scary that consumers actually complain that the big bad corporation made them buy unhealthy food for their kids and other outrageously irresponsible claims.  And there is a lot of encouragement for this nonsense.  Then you have the government telling me what I have to buy for my kids - what kind of crib, car seat, headgear, etc.  Because I am obviously too stupid to know how to properly assemble a drop-side crib.


And so many Americans happily allow the government to basically strip them of their intelligence.


Scary as hell.

nonmember avatar SKL

"The whole informed consumer thing has never worked -- can you say Wall Street?  ...  we all see where that's gotten our economy."


Please educate yourself. Free enterprise made the USA a rich nation. Right now we're suffering from government meddling, but look at this nation's history. Compare it to any other space of similar size and diversity in the world. But for free enterprise, you wouldn't be wah-blogging because there'd be no PCs, or electricity for that matter. Not that you'd have time anyway, what with cooking all day over a fire because there'd be no such thing as a cookstove, let alone a microwave; and sewing in your spare time, because the forebears of the evil Wal-Mart wouldn't have been conceived.


I assume you can read. Ever heard of a the Securities Act of 1936, which I studied in 11th grade? It requires publicly traded companies to publish a lot of info for prospective shareholders to read before they buy. IF you choose to buy a stock without researching, then you are irresponsible and you deserve what you get. You could have put your money in the money market.


I mean, I don't buy herbs and spices because I don't know how to use them. If I did decide to cook something, I'd buy a cookbook and read the recipe first. I wouldn't shove it all in a pot and then look for a scapegoat when the result tasted like crap.

lovin... lovinangels

SKL, wth? There's no point in belittling someone because you don't agree with them. Not only can our blogger read, she's highly accomplished. Could try to extend your social courtesy far enough as to not make all conservatives look like assholes? thanks. Also, If you insist on hanging out here day after day, why not join the ranks of cafemom?


@joanne. There are regulations in place. The government is NOT following their own freaking rules. The answer is not new rules, it's new government.


 

Pundi... PunditMom

I find it fascinating that so many commenters seem to think I believe it's ALL the problem of big business.  I don't, but it's become apparent in recent years that regulations continue to be watered down, Congress keeps funding low for the agencies that are supposed to regulate and nothing good is happening on either front.  Disclosure and fixing things after they're broken sound nice until you're a family who has lost loved ones and seen your livlihood disappear in a flash. 


@SKL, interesting that you should ask -- actually I'm quite familiar with the securities laws, having been an attorney at the SEC for a number of years.  And, SKL, I would also ask that you please keep your comments courteous no matter how much you disagree with me.  Disagreement is healthy -- rudeness and contempt, not so much.


 

nonmember avatar SKL

"punditmom," I am offended by the way your statements go to extremes.  I can tell you are smarter than that, so I feel it is unconscionable that you make misleading statements.  Some readers will believe what you say just because they assume a person in your position would be responsible enough to make an honest statement.  That is why I call you on it - I want your less knowledgeable readers to realize that you are stating a biased opinion more than fact.


But that's really cool how you let lovinangels call me an asshole but moderated out my responses.  Very fair and balanced.  Because everyone else on this site is always so courteous.

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