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A Rough Day at the Office

May 25, 2010

Over at Yglesias’s spot, Ali Frick attempts to explain how the oil industry reveals a crucial mistake inherent in conservative belief about government regulation:

In that sense, despite the efforts of Fox News et al to portray this as “Obama’s Katrina,” it really is yet another demonstration of the disaster of the conservative agenda to cripple government and eviscerate regulations. It’s another Katrina, alright — for Bush:

Federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency, according to an inspector general’s report to be released this week.

The report, which describes inappropriate behavior by the staff at the Minerals Management Service from 2005 to 2007, also found that inspectors had accepted meals, tickets to sporting events and gifts from at least one oil company while they were overseeing the industry.

I’m not trying to say that the spill is George Bush’s fault, just like the hurricane itself was not George Bush’s fault. But the mentality that government not only can’t successfully regulate business but has no place attempting to do so, that corporate insiders know better than experts, and that people can deal with disasters on their own is a conservative one.

The problem is that conservative failures spawn more conservatives: When conservatives cripple government, and then government fails, people believe government is incapable.

Notice the obligatory “I don’t blame Bush” line, which is usually just something people say when they want to blame Bush for something without sounding like one of those “I blame bush for everything” people.  What’s really interesting here is the assertion that Bush-era conservatives somehow “cripple[d]” the Minerals Management Service, subsequently allowing Big Oil to fill out its own inspection reports, thereby preventing crucial safety standards to be implemented and thusly leading to possibly the worst natural disaster in history (even though, according to that same NYT report, “there is no evidence that those events played a role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill”.

I’m no Noah Webster, but I’m not sure the definition of “crippling” involves allowing regulators to go on all-expense paid hunting and fishing trips and to LSU football games with oil industry executives and do meth/watch porn in the office on the taxpayers’ tab (really? Meth?), all the while completely ignoring what were supposedly obvious red flags on environmental risks (never mind that a different government agency was entirely unprepared for something like the oil spill to happen).  Apparently, that’s how you hinder performance from the top down.  Sorry, Frick, but there’s no way to convince me that this epic botch on the part of the MMS is somehow an indictment of George W. Bush or conservative principles on government intervention.  If anything, the mistakes of crooked, perverted, meth-head government employees are evidence that the size of the federal workforce should be smaller, not larger.  It seems pretty clear that we don’t need any more government positions that involve a certain amount power available for cats like these to lock down.

Of course BP is going to try to cut corners to save some money—they are, after all, a business, and a big one at that.  Conservatives don’t believe that government “has no place attempting” to regulate business.  Conservatives simply believe that the very nature of government breeds incompetence and corruption (not to mention the disingenuous waste of taxpayer dollars) and that’s one of the many reasons that government should be small.  This appears to be yet another case of a corrupt government agency hopping in bed with a big business, something that conservatives have always opposed, even though liberals have always turned a blind eye to it.

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