Monday, May 03, 2010

It’s Obama’s Karma, not his Katrina

It looks like a narrative is emerging that the massive oil spill in the gulf is now Obama’s Katrina. This makes sense, if you don’t remember much about Katrina, or know much about this oil spill.

It is true that this oil spill is likely to exceed the environmental damage and human cost that even Katrina dished out.

But the problem with Katrina was that we knew it was coming. Then we knew it came. Then we knew the levees broke. Then we knew that people were stranded and starving and desperate. Only after a day or so of chaos did the Bush government swing into action to help actual people in immediate crisis.

The problems this time around are:

  • The oil platform explosion was unexpected
  • Bad weather hampered initial efforts to figure out what was happening
  • British Petroleum totally underestimated the extent of the problem it reported to the government.
  • There might not even be a fix to this for 3 months, until they can drill another pipe into the oil field to drain off the leak. That's not a government response problem, it is a science problem. Perhaps it is a government policy problem not to have stricter guidelines when doing off-shore drilling.
  • People have been working around the clock on the problem, but since it’s in the middle of the gulf and underground, no one is seeing it, so it gives the impression nothing is being done.

Even if you rewound time, it isn’t clear what the government should have done differently. Throwing a bunch of helicopters and food at it is not going to fix it. See Media Matters for a complete timeline. And compare it to the Katrina timeline if you think they are comparable.

The most ironic thing about this is that the people complaining about the government’s response are the same people that don’t want any government involvement in their lives. Make up your mind, folks. About the only mistake you can say the government made is in believing its profit-oriented industry partner about the extent of the spill. Sounds like a case for more government regulation, oversight and involvement to me. Katrina, indeed.

I say if you want to blame something, blame Karma. Obama reversed himself a month ago to suddenly support more off-shore drilling, which conservatives had been demanding since Sarah Palin started the chanted "Drill Baby Drill" at the Republican National Convention. Now we get to learn why potential environmental disasters should factor into our resource-use policies, just like all the tree-huggers say they should. Like Earl, Obama should not have messed with Karma.


BMG said...

Only slightly relevant, but Michael Steele started Drill, Baby, Drill. Palin, maybe, amplified it.

brownie said...

Another big difference is that we couldn't avoid Katrina. That was God or karma or whatever. The oil spill was our doing. Man made. And a damn shame.

Robert Sievers said...


You always do such a tremendous job of making excuses for Obama. If I ever run for office, I want you on my press team.

Dan S said...

Ok, I'll bite. Exactly which mistake did Obama make in the oil spill that you would have changed?

Robert Sievers said...

I am not an engineer. I don't know what the right course of action is or was.

I just know that Obama's laser like focus on jobs, his failure to close Gitmo, his continued involvement in Iraq, his divisive nature, and now his incompetence in the gulf can all be explained away by you somehow.

Dan S said...

Well, I don't explain away his not closing Gitmo or our continued involvement in Iraq. It's a blotch on his record, as far as I'm concerned, and I doubt you'll find I've ever justified either of them for him.

But if you are going to say he's incompetent about the oil spill, you'll have to identify something he did wrong and what he should have done instead.

If you say he is divisive by nature, you'll have to identify something about him (other than his skin color) that makes him divisive.

If you are going to say he is incompetent at creating jobs, you'll have to identifying something he failed to do to create more jobs.

I expect what I'll hear back is the same conservative mumbo-jumbo talking points, like he's divisive because we don't like him, or he didn't create jobs because the deficit is high.

Anonymous said...

Could not have said it better myself. Great blog article!

Fingtree said...

He's only considered divisive in conservative circles because he verbally fights back and exposes their regurgitated bombastic rhetoric for what it is. Conservatives start name calling and aim their hate filled negative criticism at the target to attempt to belittle them and influence the gullible followers that gobble it up and boastfully regurgitate it again.

Robert Sievers said...


I appreciate your acknowledgeing that Obama isn't perfect. I wasn't looking for a debate, but to see if you could really explain away everything. But seriously, if I run for office, I would want you on my press team.

Also, I must admit I was wrong about soemthing. My primary reason for not wanting governement controlled healthcare has to due with the government's total incompetence. However, I had no problem with off shore drilling, because I had mistakenly thought that should an accident happen, the coast guard and EPA could deal with it. I neglected to connect the fact that government blundering and inefficiency extends across all departments. I fully recognize and repent of this error in judgement on my part. My same distrust for government capability regarding health care should have been applied to government clean up of environmental problems as well.

Dan S said...

Bob, you are not even trying to make sense.

It was BP's responsiblity to report the leak and to plug it, and they have totally failed. The government stepped in when they discovered the true extent of the problem, after being lied to by industry. You are blaming the government because a private doctor sliced open an artery and then stitched it up incorrectly without telling anyone.

Again, you have still not identified any mistake made by any government entity, other than perhaps our environmental safety protection laws themselves, which obviously are not stringent enough.

Samuel said...

I'm not sure how the oil spill can be anything other than an argument for more government regulation (like a cap and trade program!) Its not like the government did anything wrong in this disaster (so far) other than fail to regulate enough. There was a push in 2003 during the Bush administration to have 500,000$ automatic shut off valves mandatory on this type of oil well, and BP made such a stink that it didn't happen.
Yes, government isn't perfect, but business doesn't care about the future in the slightest (which makes sense, because their incentives force them to make short term decisions, unless there are rules enforcing a longer horizon).

Robert Sievers said...

So I am to understand people here think it more likely that this incident is the result of inadequate regulation, and not the result of an incompetant government regulatory agency?

Samuel said...

sorry if I wasn't clear-
I think the spill is
a) bad luck (these things happen when you mess around with oil).
b) a bad pipe automatic shutoff (either the company who made it, the way it was put on the pipe, or just the fact it was being used in a new environment, I'll wait for the official report)
c) some bad choices by BP in terms of safety issues.
d) some really corrupt/bad government regulation of off shore drilling/safety regulations.

I think there is plenty of blame to go around.

Because I know that government regulators are far to easy to corrupt, I am pretty content with the plan to dramatically increase the price of fossil fuels, commensurate with the negative externalities involved, through either a carbon tax, or cap and trade, such that we can use the free market to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.