One of the most interesting responses to the massive oil leak that now threatens so much of what is special about the Gulf of Mexico has come from the citizens of the states that line the Gulf. These are, largely, the same people who have spent decades doing the bidding of oil companies while simultaneously screaming about the size of government. To many of them governmental efforts that would have made the locating, removing and refining of oil safer and more expensive have been nonstarters. Now, that their friends in oil have created what will potentially go down as the greatest environmental disaster in American history many of these same people are demanding government intervention. It is no longer good enough to trust British Petroleum—now the government must take over the cleanup and recovery efforts.
This kind of hypocrisy is the kind of absurdity that drives me crazy with the right. You cannot spend decades doing everything in your power to keep government from regulating the oil industry and then demand governmental action when your friends with big oil do what you have tacitly encouraged them to do—cut corners to keep the price of oil down and fund a large portion of your economy. Remarkably, however, this outrageous, avoidable catastrophe has not taught many of you the lessons of your self-serving shortsightedness. While so many of you are blaming the Obama administration for not doing enough many of you are resisting Democratic efforts to raise the cap for private damages that oil companies could be forced to pay people, like you, whose lives have been possibly forever changed for the negative because of British Petroleum’s negligence. Even as your beaches sink under mountains of oil and your native species drowned in rust-colored gunk—many of you warn against policy changes that might hold big oil more accountable to you. How does this make sense? It’s time you recognize the value of a diversified economy and a society that does not spend so much of its time and resources pandering to an industry that shows little regard for you and your land.
You are right; the government should be doing more to make sure the leak is stopped and that the cleanup goes as smoothly as it can be expected to go. But one of the reasons the government is not meeting the complete burden of its responsibility is that government officials are concerned that if they do get to involved that they will be torn apart for a disaster they are only partially responsible for creating. If you want to create a climate where government can be more responsive to its citizens you must stop subscribing to the simple-minded myth that government is regularly incompetent and that business can take care of just about everything if only government gets off of its back. Until conservatives acknowledge and encourage the very real role government must play in all of our lives, we will continue getting the ineffective government we all love to hate.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but the people of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi deserve some of the blame for the misfortune that has befallen them.