I started my morning by watching the clip of the former Clinton Labor Secretary on Olbermann’s show talking about his brilliant plan to put BP under receivership. I refuse to link it because you’d have to sit through three minutes of Olbermann and that is at least 2:59 longer than anyone with an above-room temperature IQ should have to endure.
If you want to see a slightly better clip, this still is enough to give you the gist:
And TPM has Reich’s column in which he outlines this brilliant strategy. He boils this down to five reasons why this is a course of action that the federal government should take.
1. We are not getting the truth from BP.
2. We have no way to be sure BP is devoting enough resources to stopping the gusher.
3. BP’s new strategy for stopping the gusher is highly risky.
4. Right now, the U.S. government has no authority to force BP to adopt a different strategy.
5. The President is not legally in charge.
Now, before I continue, we should clear something up. Receivership is generally a remedy available to entities that are insolvent and looking for a way reorganize without liquidating their assets. As of yet, severely depressed stock price aside, I have not yet heard anyone say that BP is insolvent. Nor did I see where Bobby the Brilliant say what exactly would give the government authority to do so. Calling it a national emergency is not sufficient cause to seize private property, any more than “Too Big To Fail” was sufficient cause to take over AIG or GM, and “make no mistake”, it was not sufficient cause. As much as sticky-fingered statists like Reich would like to wish otherwise, due process has not been suspended or tossed out the window.
As I listened to the Olbermann clip, I heard Bobby admit that the government has no plan, doesn’t have the necessary equipment, doesn’t have the expertise or even general knowledge that BP has. But the information seems to be the key for Bobby. He feels that BP has it and isn’t sharing. He hasn’t presented proof, mind you. He simply feels that because BP is refuting what some scientists are saying, government has a right to seize the company to check the data. Corporations do not have Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination, but they do have due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. As a practicing attorney, my response is “Get a damn subpoena, and then we will talk. But keep your filthy mitts off of the Corporation unless you seek it through legal process, and in that case, I’ll see you in Court, counselor.”
As for not knowing if BP is devoting enough resources, Bobby would have us believe that a company that answers to shareholders and is getting the crap kicked out of it in the Court of public opinion is somehow holding back from bringing an end to a spill than will stain its reputation for decades, and the implication that government control of BP could somehow get a new well to the accident site any faster using the same BP resources is ludicrous in the extreme. These rigs are massive, and depending on the type, move at a glacial pace. The laws of physics do not change simply because Obama stamps his foot and cries “Faster! Plug the damn hole!”
Bobby’s argument that BP’s strategy is risky takes some cheek in light of the fact that government has no plan of its own; the idea that government, which he admitted does not have the experience or a plan, could formulate a better plan is arrogant and not borne out by the facts. Keep in mind this is the same government that through the EPA failed to deliver timely approval to the state of Louisiana to install sand berms to protect Louisiana coastal marshes. I don’t think extra-legal remedies to allow an entity with a history of failure to start calling the shots is intelligent policy.
Bobby’s concern about the government’s lack of legal authority is unconvincing. His justification, rooted in the confusion created by government influence/participation already is not a compelling argument. Taking control from BP only means the clear decision maker will be removed from the equation, and leave the process to competing agencies who are just as likely to bicker and argue, and give an executive who already has demonstrated an ability to talk about problems rather than discuss them a reason to continue to be indecisive. It would be the worst of all worlds.
And his final reason, the current confusion caused by the fact that the President has no legal authority is not a reason, it is a segway to an “AND???” The fact that he doesn’t have direct authority and can only meddle and cause confusion through the agency of government rather than assume control and make it the order of the day again fails to present a compelling legal argument for the seizure of private property.
While I can believe that some in government, like Maxine Waters (D)ummy, California, would positively wet themselves in sheer delight at the thought of adding an oil company to their car company, insurance company, bank and brokerage house, I just can’t support it. Hell, if they get their fondest desires in their plans to “Reinvent Journalism”, they can be just like their hero, Hugo Chavez.
If we let BP succumb to such extra-Constitutional process as Bobby the Brilliant proposes, then there will be no crisis too small to justify the government taking what it wants. This has to stop. Now.