Barack Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office Tuesday night. His goal? To make it appear that he's "doing something" about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, but predictably, his solutions involve only more government control. "[O]ne of the lessons we've learned from this spill," he said, "is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling." In other words, more of the same oppressive government that contributed to causing the spill or, at the very least, worsening the results.
Obama then lectured Americans about our consumption. "We consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves," he complained. "And that's part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean -- because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water." Of course, Obama's chutzpah conceals the real reason oil companies are drilling in deep water -- which is that government arbitrarily continues putting land and shallow water off limits.
Comedian Jay Leno may have summed it up best when he quipped, "President Obama announced [Tuesday] that he wants to use the oil spill to move America toward green energy. I have a crazy idea. Maybe he should use the oil spill crisis to fix the oil spill."
Meanwhile, BP has acquiesced to Democrat demands for a $20 billion political slush fund, er, escrow account to be used to compensate people and businesses harmed by the spill. The fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who oversaw both the 9/11 victims' fund and executive pay limitations under TARP. Democrats are further insisting that the $75 million liability cap for oil spills (passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress in 1990) be raised and retroactively applied to the company. Apparently, it doesn't matter that BP had already stated its intention to pay more than $75 million if necessary.
Obama declared that this is the best way to make the victims whole -- "We will make BP pay," he said -- but let's not forget that he has also ordered a six-month moratorium on drilling, to the outrage of politicians on both sides of the aisle and to the detriment of those working in the industry. Our fearless leader is hoping no one notices that he's giving Gulf residents money with one hand, while further crippling their economy with the other. To be sure, BP should be liable for the spill, as should Transocean and Halliburton, which were involved with the rig and the well. But as columnist Steve Chapman put it, "A villain as hated -- and justifiably hated -- as BP creates a temptation to indulge in excess, and Obama is not inclined to resist."
All of this notwithstanding, we should note that blaming Obama for not plugging the spill isn't entirely legitimate. However, he is certainly to blame for his initial dithering; for his overreach, which has exacerbated the disaster and could lead to similar accidents in the future; and for his pursuit of job-crushing energy policy (e.g., drilling moratoriums, cap-n-trade), which will further stifle a struggling economy.
Bureaucratic red tape has hampered cleanup by delaying oil burn-off and the use of dispersants because of environmental concerns (never mind the 60,000 barrels of oil a day gushing into the Gulf). The administration also waved off foreign assistance because of the ill-conceived 1920 Jones Act, which mandates U.S. union labor for particular jobs. Permit delays slowed the construction of barrier islands off the Louisiana coast, though that didn't stop Obama from bragging, "We've approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore."
To add insult to injury, Louisiana's oil-sucking barges were halted by the administration because the Coast Guard had to "confirm" that the barges had fire extinguishers and life vests aboard. After those "concerns" were allayed, the barges were then stalled because the Coast Guard had "problems" contacting the company that constructed the barges.
If Obama were more concerned with stopping the spill of oil rather than the spill in his poll numbers, he would offer whatever legitimate assistance the federal government can provide and then get out of the way.