Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Small government" fail: Gulf of Mexico edition

Joe Conason puts the BP oil catastrophe in the context of why we need a democratic government that works effectively and honestly to protect the public against the irresponsibility of companies like BP (Big government? In the Gulf, it's too small and too weak Salon 06/18/2010):

If there is any simple, succinct, somewhat contrarian lesson to be drawn from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it is this: The federal government is neither too big nor too intrusive but is in fact shockingly meek and weak -- at least when dealing with giant corporations whose operations can imperil the entire planet. That was essentially the message delivered yesterday by Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall, whose congressional testimony was overshadowed by the Tony Hayward show on Capitol Hill.
He goes on to explain how the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the main federal regulatory agency responsible for ensuring reansably safe operations in offshore drilling, has been unable to do the job, even if everyone involved had seriously wanted it to do so. And he closes with this important point:

Students of government have long accepted as a rule of thumb that hiring additional well-trained auditors to oversee major government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid always results in savings that amount to many multiples of the cost in salaries and overhead. ... A similar principle plainly applies to oil platform inspectors, because perhaps if there were more of them, better trained, with real regulatory clout, we not only would suffer less pollution and earn more royalties every day -- but this time we could have saved $100 billion or so in economic damages, along with the Louisiana wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico too.
We can tax corporations to pay for the right kind of regulations. But we can't trust them to police themselves.

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