Posts Tagged ‘Ken Salazar’

Obama’s Katrina?

June 22, 2010

Hurricane Katrina was a predictable natural disaster which the federal government failed to avert and to prepare for.

Deepwater Horizon was a preventable human-caused disaster which the federal government failed to avert and to prepare for.

The Bush administration failed to provide funds to repair and maintain the dams and levees surrounding New Orleans, despite warnings they were inadequate. The Bush administration then appointed political hacks to manage the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies, which then predictably failed to do their jobs.

The Obama administration has so far failed to change things back.  The Minerals Management Service continued to fail to enforce regulations requiring oil drillers in the Gulf to maintain best practices. Without absolving BP management of responsibility, it is predictable that when regulations are not enforced, somebody is going to ignore them.  And when there is a competitive economic advantage to be gained by cutting corners, eventually everybody is going to do it.

The federal government has responded massively to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but reports from the Gulf say that federal, state and local efforts are poorly-coordinated – in other words, the FEMA is still not doing its job.

Even after President Obama announced a moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf, the MMS continued to approve new drilling applications, and without doing any more checking than it did with BP.  Maybe some of these other oil companies are more responsible than BP, but there is no way to know if they are.

Ken Salazar, Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, was quickly confirmed by the Senate because he was acceptable to the oil and gas industry.  If President Obama had nominated somebody who really would have cracked down on the oil industry, he would have faced a big floor fight and maybe a Republican filibuster.  In retrospect, he would have done better, even from the standpoint of political expediency, to have made that fight.

I blame George W. Bush and Barack Obama for the government’s failures in the Gulf because the alternative is to admit that it is impossible for the government to do its job. If this is so, then U.S. decline is inevitable and irreversible.