The Government Cannot Protect Us From Every Catastrophe We Face
Tuesday night, in an Oval Office speech to the nation, President Obama took the gloves off.
He lashed out at BP over the monumental oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He vowed that he will make BP pay for all the long and short-term damage it caused. He argued that the battle against this now nearly two-month-old raging gusher of oil is tantamount to a war. And he asked the country to allow him and the Congress to regulate all businesses and private homes in the name of going green.
For most Americans, it was the first time they saw him angry — although a controlled anger from the no-drama-Obama, as his own campaign staff labeled him two years ago. But will the president’s feigned anger get the oil well plugged? Will it get cash into the hands of those truly harmed? Will it prevent future disasters?
No, no and no.
Here are the facts: After the Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska in 1989 had been cleaned up and nearly paid for by Exxon, the oil companies lobbied the Congress for liability limits — maximum amounts that they could be held to pay for in the event of a disaster.
A Republican Congress and President Clinton together made it the law that oil companies would be limited to pay $75 million for cleanups and the taxpayers — that would be you — would pay the rest. In return, the feds would be able to tell the oil companies where to drill.
In the case of BP, it asked the state of Louisiana if it could drill in 500 feet of water and Louisiana said it could. The federal government vetoed that and told BP could only drill in 5,000 feet of water.
Never mind that no oil company had ever cleaned up a broken well at that depth and never mind that the feds had never monitored a broken well at that depth and never mind that BP only needed to set aside $75 million in case something went wrong. The feds trumped BP’s engineers and the feds trumped the wishes of the folks who live along the Gulf Coast and the feds decided where this oil well would be drilled.
Andrew P. Napolitano [send him mail], a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at the Fox News Channel. His latest book is Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History, (Nelson, 2010).