Reagan began the deregulation craze. During his Administration, and for years afterwards, Republicans disparaged the Federal Government as increasingly intrusive and counter productive to free enterprise. The S&L's, California's Power and Utility Commission and more recently, Wall Street's Commercial Banks, crashed and burned as a direct result of deregulation. Americans were left with the bill.
Dick Cheney's closed door energy meetings with oil companies and electrical power providers worked out well for Big Oil and Enron, but not so well for American taxpayers who had to pick up the pieces when, as Alan Greenspan liked to say, "they got over exuberant." The Bush Administration started two wars that far too Americans enthusiastically endorsed. Many applauded each time the Federal Government threw out another regulation to allow unfettered capitalism full reign.
The Republican Parties message of less government and ever lower taxes proved a winning combination. If Democrats hoped to win elections they knew they must move further to the right. Clinton understood this as does Obama. Grover Norquist, an anti-tax crusader and far right Republican famously said, 'My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." One of the results of that drowning can be seen unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.
Horrified Americans are beginning to understand the enormity of the catastrophe that B.P. has set loose upon the world. Americans are justifiably outraged, but it is they who subscribe to Limbaugh, Beck, and the Fox News crowd. Americans put the Republicans in charge of Congress in 1996. In 2000 they stood idly by as an immoral neer do well snuck through the back door and into the White House. In ensuing years regulations, and the oversight of polluters, took a back seat to corporate profit.
Public outrage over B.P's reckless criminal conduct grows daily while environmentalists and global warming scientists are dismissed by the right as crackpots. Fox News won a decision by an appeals court in Florida that ruled Fox "had no obligation to report truthfully, and the First Amendment protects their right to lie." Last January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "The court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations." Giving corporations personhood, to allow them unlimited spending on candidates running for elective office, will give them even more power over Congress and the President, and give them a green light to work in direct opposition to American's interests.
It remains to be seen if the helpless rage over B.P's reckless, criminal conduct, makes a difference in how Americans see their government. The results of electing representatives who promise to get government off the backs of the poor, downtrodden corporations, is making itself felt again. But unlike Wall Street's slippery bunko games, the damage from B.P's spill is probably irreparable.
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Nothing will save the Gulf of Mexico or the states that lie along the approaching monstrosity that will soon ruin their tourist industries, drastically reduce property values, sicken millions and destroy the livelihoods of many more. Republican Senators are vowing to filibuster any further attempts by Democrats to raise B.P's liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion.
Another semi-submersible rig, the Atlantis, is drilling a hundred miles further offshore, and in water 2000 feet deeper than where Deepwater Horizon went down. Last year the Associated Press reported that B.P. investigated its employees because they complained that engineering documents were missing from the Atlantis. Such documents provide vital information for safely stopping and starting the rig. B.P. and the Minerals Management Service ignored the A.P's requests for comment.
Major media is not mentioning B.P's Atlantis, and Americans have no idea if Atlantis is conforming to the few government regulations that still remain. If a bookie were taking odds they'd be 100 to 1 that B.P. is completely unconcerned with conforming to safety standards. But Americans are not privy to such information, and as Deepwater Horizon is so tragically demonstrating, it is they who have the most to lose. Major media, the Congress, Obama and B.P, figure that if the well blows out Americans will learn about it then. Given B.P's track record it's astonishing that Atlantis has not been shut down until inspections can been made to determine if B.P. is conforming to safety standards. The fact that B.P's Atlantis is still drilling should tell Americans all they need to know of the lessons learned by Obama, Congress and B.P.
The eventual costs of B.P's recklessness can never by measured. The $75 million that B.P. is liable for is however, a very valuable number. It demonstrates, better than any politician or B.P. spokesperson, the extent to which Americans have swallowed the fantasy that corporate self regulation is in their interest. They are utterly helpless to protect their nation from the corporate marauders that prey on their ignorance and gullibility. They have no control of their Congress, which is bought and sold by the highest bidder, like any commodity that's up for sale. Until Americans take a hard look at themselves, and take seriously their responsibilities to send to Congress men and women they can trust to represent them, corporate hyenas will continue destroying what still remains of Democracy. "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
Jon Faulkner is a Master Mariner. He lives in Maine with his wife and children. Mariner@suddenlink.net