Treating The Symptom, Not The Problem
We’re now two months in to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and there’s still no sign at all that anyone is learning anything from it. Everyone is pointing fingers at BP, at the BP execs, at the oil industry in general, at Obama, at Congress, at government in general. But none of them are the problem. BP CEO Tony Hayward hit the nail on the head in a 2009 speech he gave describing the situation at BP when he took over:
“We had too many people who were working to save the world,” Browne said at the time. “We sort of lost track of the fact that our primary purpose in life was to create value for our shareholders.”
Therein lies the entirety of the problem — BP has one and only one obligation, and that is to deliver a profit to their shareholders. That’s the way the system is designed, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Keep oil rigs safe for workers? Nope, not their problem. Prevent spills from devastating ecosystems and destroying thousands of people’s livelihoods? Nope, not their problem. Providing clean energy that does not harm the environment, does not contribute to global warming, that does not require endless wars in the Middle East? Nope, not their problem. Making sure that the world is a better place for future generations? You get the idea…. not their problem.
So while mega-corporations like British Petroleum are pursuing their one and only goal of maximizing profits, just who is supposed to be looking out for the welfare of workers, consumers, citizens, and future generations? That’s the job of government. That’s what separates us from the animal world. And that’s the lesson to be learned from Deepwater Horizon. The bigger and stronger corporations are, the bigger and stronger the government has to be. Thirty years of Reaganomics have left us with a government that is totally incapable of protecting “We The People” from these monster corporations who care about nothing other than the bottom line.
Yes, we need to get the Gulf region cleaned up as quickly as possible, and yes we need to make sure that BP pays for every last penny of the recovery process. But that’s the symptom, not the problem. Ultimately what is needed is a government that is both strong enough and capable enough to tell corporations what they can and cannot do, and when they don’t obey, take away their corporate charter and put them out of business.
America, this is a very, very simple lesson. Why are you making it so difficult?