June 2010

BP Execs Arrive at White House / AP Photo

By: Brian Sikma

When Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) used his position as ranking member of the House Energy Committee to apologize to the leadership of BP for the way they have been treated by the federal government, he quickly found himself in hot water from both sides of the aisle. The black oil spreading across the Gulf has created a toxic environment in Washington towards anyone attempting to excuse the actions of the company that lauds itself as being “Beyond Petroleum.”

Unquestionably, BP has not been treated right by the Obama Administration. Forcing BP to set up a $20 billion escrow account was yet another advance by this administration in an all-out assault on the free-market system that is the only thing that will power our economy back to prosperity. When the Administration demanded that BP give the federal government a lien on $20 billion worth of U.S. assets as collateral on the escrow account, we saw a brazen power-play that resembled Chicago-style politics more than legitimate Constitutional government. Make no mistake: BP had no choice in this matter, and it was not a voluntary action on their part.

The unacceptability of the Administration’s effort to hold BP accountable is not justified even by the magnitude of the disaster. Government should never leap beyond its Constitutional bounds and arbitrarily seize control of private enterprise and private resources. We are a nation of laws, not bureaucrats with good intentions and limitless powers to resolve catastrophes and crises however they see fit. Elected officials, citizens, and even private sector players must respectfully and ardently oppose the BP arm-twisting and a repeat of similar actions in the future.

This is not to say that BP should not be held responsible for the damage it has caused. The billions of dollars worth of damage to the states and people along the Gulf should be compensated to them by BP. BP should bear 100% of the disaster clean-up costs because this problem, whether caused by an accident or a purposeful and willful negligence towards safety and good operating standards, is BP’s responsibility.

Individuals, corporations, and organizations are free to sue BP for real damages that they suffered. Those who immediately covered the bill for the clean-up effort, primarily the federal government and state governments, should seek to be compensated by BP for the costs that they incurred. Small business owners who suffered actual and real damages, for which there are definite monetary figures available to measure the extent of harm, should be free to join together in class-action lawsuits against BP to recover what they lost. Larger corporations and other entities that lost money may find it more appropriate to sue BP singly for compensation.

The problem that has marked the Obama Administration’s response to the crisis is not that they want to hold BP to account for what happened and make sure that BP pays for the damage it has caused, but that they have done so in a way that violates core Constitutional principles and unnecessarily bypasses established legal procedures. President Obama and his team like to focus on action and it is not at all disconcerting to them to place action – any action – ahead of the careful pursuit of justice via well established channels that serve to protect our nation and the freedom that we enjoy.

Unless held in check, the greatest damage to the country that results from the Gulf disaster will be the Obama Administration’s sacrifice of the rule of law on the altar of expedient action. Eventually the oil will be cleaned up, and with much effort the lives of the people along the Gulf Coast will return to a level of normalcy, but our nation will be negatively impacted for a very long time by the precedents set up by the government’s response to the disaster. Right now, both BP and Big Government are to blame for the disaster in the Gulf.

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Thomas Sowell – Is the U.S. Now On Slippery Slope to Tryanny?


By: Brian Sikma

A well-meaning arrogance dominates, drives, and defines the modern political left. Throughout the West, liberals consistently advocate for policies that leave government, generally unelected experts and commissions, with more power and average citizens, entrepreneurs and families with fewer choices and less freedom. Europe is quite a bit closer to the consequences of such policymaking, but the Obama Administration is working hard to drive our country down that same path of soft socialism.

Conservatives believe that many choices are best left up to the individual, and to individuals working collectively through free-market based economic systems. Government, no matter who it is run by or how big it may be, cannot determine the specific needs of every individual and develop a targeted solution for every individual’s private problem. This is not to say that government should not limit choice in some areas. Moral issues are matters of absolute right and wrong, and failure to enforce a prohibition on making choices that violate morality is an open invitation to anarchy, and freedom cannot function when every man is a law unto himself.

Radical environmentalism, and the alarmist rhetoric and shoddy science resulting from it, provide an excellent case-study on the arrogance of liberalism. As the oil continues to spew at a rate of about 210,000 gallons per day out of the broken BP/Deepwater Horizon deep-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the left is up in arms over the extent of the damage being done to the environment of the Gulf of Mexico and southern coastal states. There is significant immediate and mid-term damage being done as the oil washes up on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and drifts out on the currents threatening the coastal beaches of Florida.

After broadly denouncing corporations (that employ millions of Americans and pay billions in taxes), the private sector, and Republicans, President Obama’s most ambitious step towards solving the immediate crisis has been to order a freeze of all deep-sea drilling. Besides costing the nation part of its vital intake of domestic oil, and putting thousands of much-needed jobs on the line, the freeze does very little to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater well disaster. It does look good on the surface, however, as do the photo-op commission announcements and meetings with various academic and bureaucratic experts.

The one sector that the president has most heavily criticized throughout all of this is, ironically, the one entity that is doing the most to cap the gushing well and solve the problem. The oil industry, and particularly BP, has engaged in round-the-clock efforts to staunch the hemorrhaging of oil and thereby reduce the likelihood of greater environmental and economic damage. What, exactly, is the usefulness of Attorney General Eric Holder’s criminal investigation into the situation remains to be seen. It is doubtful that its value will measure up to what is being done with robotic equipment thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf.

Broadly freezing all deep-water drilling, and announcing criminal investigations into the situation, are overkill responses to what is happening. Ultimately, once the oil leak is stopped and the clean up takes place, the environment of the Gulf and the coastal areas bordering it will recover. The oil that is causing the problem is a natural substance. In time, the affected areas will recover, and human efforts will only speed that recovery. The left worships the concept of “Mother Earth” and laments the tragic impact that human beings have on the environment. But liberals view themselves as the ultimate protectors of the earth and go about their do-good work with the attitude that without their loving and expert care, the earth would simply commit suicide and kill itself, human beings or no human beings.

Instead of blaming Republicans, the President should set aside the pretentious photo-ops and get to work helping state governments and private organizations that are better equipped to deal with the disaster. The American people in their haste should not be quick to blame the President, Washington, or either political party for the event that led to this problem (though an interesting case can be made for how environmental regulations forced the development of higher-risk deep-water wells when shallow coastal wells were available). But though the President may not be responsible for the problem, or for how large it grows, he is responsible for how he responds to the problem, and that is something the voters should begin to pass judgment on this November.

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