Sunday, June 20, 2010

Through A Glass Darkly

I was quite surprised during my visit to Watching America at finding so many articles on BP's Gulf oil spill. The one which caught my attention was an editorial-like piece from Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung written by Moritz Koch. Mr. Koch points out the clear connection between the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the disaster on Wall Street. His analysis is devastating and right on the money.

...The bitter truth is that many officials in responsible supervisory agencies prefer searching the Internet for porno clips to looking over the shoulder of investment bankers and oil managers. The neglect of American civil servants connects both crises much more than any other pattern that could be found during a trip down abstraction lane. The financial crisis and the oil spill are the results of a gross violation of state responsibilities; a violation, however, that happened with intent and arose from ideological calculations. Thus, the violation was not an accident and did not result from carelessness. It was politically intended.

The Republicans, who ruled Washington until the end of 2008, had blind faith in the self-regulation of markets. Bureaucratic obstacles were deliberately smoothed out to exhaust all potentials for growth. While financial institutions were allowed to bring an increasing number of complex derivatives on the market, authorities permitted oil companies to drill deeper and deeper and did not waste a single thought on the “what if’s.”

The administration under George W. Bush refused to see reason. Regulation authorities were condemned to idleness and those inspectors who took their jobs seriously were worn down. ...
[Emphasis added.}

Mr. Koch has assessed the situation accurately, in my opinion. He even has a little sound advice for the current administration:

President Barack Obama has to enforce the return to basic governmental functions, politically and culturally. He has made some progress concerning the SEC: the agency has regained its self-esteem under new leadership and has even dared to sue the powerful investment bank Goldman Sachs. Nuisances at the MMS continue, however. The president, who appeared helpless over the last few weeks, now has to demonstrate strong leadership. He certainly cannot count on any help from the opposition. The Republicans have continued to radicalize, driven forth by the fundamentalist Tea-Party-Movement. Nothing bears witness to this as much as the comment that Rand Paul, the founder of right-winged government critics and Republican candidate for the Senate, made about the oil spill: “Sometimes accidents happen.”

Two things struck me about this remarkable essay. First, I don't have any optimism when it comes to the Obama administration when it comes to forging ahead to clean up the messes he has admittedly inherited. He is not a progressive and is beholden to some of the same ideals of the previous two administrations: the business of America is business, and business will take care of things if allowed to do so freely. We see where that got us, but what we won't see is any movement away from this paradigm even though it is clearly and demonstrably wrong.

Second, this editorial could have and should have been published by any number of the major newspapers and media outlets in the United States, yet it was not. The most we have gotten is some nervous hand-wringing and some photos of oily pelicans. Oh, the MMS employees caught surfing porn sites instead of doing their jobs will get their chops busted, but only with respect to their accessing pornography and not for being in bed (in some cases literally) with oil company lobbyists and executives.

I don't know which disgusts me more: the failure of my government to do its job or the failure of the free press to do theirs.

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Blogger the bewilderness said...

It reminded me of two things.
The gutting of the Civil Service regulations when the Department of Homeland Security was created, and the shifting of political appointees to civil service positions just prior to W leaving office.
No good could come of it.

When Reagan altered the description of people who work from personnel to human resources I said no good could come of it and people said it was a small thing to get so upset over.
When Bush gutted the Civil Service protections I said no good would come of it and I was told it was a small thing to get so upset over.

Changing the way the citizens view one another is no small thing.

11:08 AM  

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