Conservatives want a government takeover of BP?

As frustration grows over the mounting oil spill disaster, there is an odd bit of political cognitive dissonance coming out of some quarters: some conservatives are suggesting that the federal government take over BP and clean up the oil spill. Aren’t conservatives opposed to government takeovers of private business?

On Face the Nation yesterday, Sen. Lamar Alexander raised the idea:

But Alexander isn’t the only one making that suggestion. As Louisiana officials grow desperate watching a mess that is killing not only beaches and wetlands but also jobs and a way of life, many of them are also suggesting that the feds take over. Louisiana, mind you, is a Deep South state that elects politicians who are usually deeply suspicious of the federal government. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune:

With each criticism of BP and the federal government’s inability to force the company to move faster when oil is spotted coming ashore, local officials have started to clamor for President Barack Obama to federalize the disaster response under the Oil Pollution Act.

To be sure, the federal government lacks the capacity to do the kind of deepwater technical clean-up that is required in this case. As conservatives like to point out, there are things the feds don’t do well, and this is one of them, as the Coast Guard commandant has pointed out. From McClatchy:

The U.S. official leading the response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill said Sunday that only BP had the expertise to plug the gaping hole in its deepwater well and that he trusted the oil company was doing its best.

The comments by Adm. Thad Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, signaled that the U.S. government wouldn’t take a larger role in stopping the five-week-old spill even as frustration in the Gulf coast grows over the Obama administration’s policy of letting BP run the cleanup.

The feds should concentrate on two things: reforming the Minerals Management Service, so it conducts better oversight of oil companies, and making sure that BP pays every dime it will owe for the clean-up and to compensate billions in economic losses.

126 comments Add your comment

Is it 2012 yet?

May 24th, 2010
11:58 am

And Democraps don’t?

Lawrence Baker

May 24th, 2010
12:04 pm

BP, a month to prepare for top kill or a month of stalling? Big Oil and World Bankers are more powerful then the United States of America! Today, BP is in command and feeds the media what ever BS they want with no questions asked. The mass media, Congress and the President are in the bag. It wasn’t until May 18th that the first video of the wellhead and preventer were released! No one in the media even mentions that the standard riser is 18 inches in diameter and the shown salvage siphon tube is only ¾ inch! The new video reveals that the wellhead flow is accurate at 95,000 barrels of oil a day; not BPs 5,000 bpd. Yet, 5,000 bpd is the official BS story without qualification.
Gulp-up the BS that that the ¾ tube is delivering 5,000 barrels a day of oil and gas straight up a mile to a recovery ship! Never mind that the wellhead and preventer is the main source of the flow of oil and that BP has only been trying to salvage oil at the end of the fallen riser. BPs failed salvage operations over the last month, Big Bell and Top Hat, were salvage operations; not operations to stop the flow of oil at the wellhead with a top kill. The mass news media is as complicit as the President and Congress and all take the American public for propagandized fools. This out of control oil well is an ecological and economic genocide of the American people and should be responded to as a terrorist attack.

Kamchak

May 24th, 2010
12:07 pm

But…but…but…it’ not in the Constitution!

JAW

May 24th, 2010
12:07 pm

My lefty wife and I had this debate last night, She said that Barry should take it over, I iold her he would not dare to, cause if it gets worse, it would then be his fault as the lefties said it was Bush with Katria,

godless heathen

May 24th, 2010
12:09 pm

Mr. Baker,

What pray tell would be BP’s incentive to NOT do their best to fix this problem. Do they hate pelicans?

Shawny

May 24th, 2010
12:17 pm

This shows how little you know conservatives, and how low of a regard you have for them.
Yes, conservatives generally would like to keep government out of things, but understand that without govt regulations and controls that business would run roughshod over the environment, employees, and their own customers.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. All that oil in the LA marshlands, beaches, etc. is a desperate time. Conservatives to not hold fast to general ideals with such at stake.

Steve Real

May 24th, 2010
12:18 pm

Keep big government out of the oil spill.
We don’t need big government in our lives.
You Obama socialists stay out of the Gulf of Mexico!

We don’t need big government in the Gulf Of mexico as an excuse to encroach in our lives

not not,
not tomorrow,
not ever.

Joel

May 24th, 2010
12:20 pm

CT, I dont think you really understand what the Senator is speaking about. It is quite obvious he is referring to the Feds taking over the effort to stop the leak and clean up. Not all of BP. But, why let reality get in the way of your thinking.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

May 24th, 2010
12:20 pm

The guvmint don’t do nothing right. Keep the guvmint out of it. This is a job for Private Innerprize.

Now if all 300 million of us each got a quart jar and went out on a boat and scooped up oil, that’d be nought, carry the nought . . .

don

May 24th, 2010
12:26 pm

I do not want a government takeover of BP or any part of the oil industry. The government was inept in providing meaningful inspections of the oil rig in the first place. Why would I believe they can run it if they can’t inspect it? I want a President who will demonstrate command and control. We are well past the point where the Obama administration should have taken control of fighting the spill and bringing all world resources to bear to stop the flow. Pretty words and fancy speaches don’t work, do they Mr President? The time to point fingers was after the disaster was controlled. Demeaning BP and forming investigative boards will not stop the leak. The Commander and Chief has failed to lead.

Peadawg

May 24th, 2010
12:29 pm

“some conservatives are suggesting that the federal government take over BP and clean up the oil spill.”

That’s a good thing. You should be happy, Cynthia. Yet your blind hatred for the right is making you turn this into some kind of argument against the GOP. Get a life dude, geeze.

ctucker

May 24th, 2010
12:31 pm

Peadawg, I think you have confused the words “disagree” and “hate.” BTW, I’m just looking for a little ideological consistency.

ctucker

May 24th, 2010
12:32 pm

Joel, They would have to move BP out of the way and then take over its equipment to do that. That’s at least a partial “takeover.”

ctucker

May 24th, 2010
12:33 pm

Shawny, I guess I don’t know conservatives. And I guess conservatives don’t know themselves because very few of them have called for stricter govt regulation of anything.

Jethro

May 24th, 2010
12:34 pm

Am I the only one that sees the irony in the American government taking over British Petroleum?

HDB

May 24th, 2010
12:42 pm

don May 24th, 2010
12:26 pm
I do not want a government takeover of BP or any part of the oil industry.

Question: When Dick Cheney created energy policy for the Bush Administration with secret meetings with the oil companies….didn’t the OIL COMPANIES take over the government??

What the government needs to do is to get ALL of BP’s profits for this calendar year if they don’t stop the leak and clean this mess up within the next month…and continue to take the profit and place it in trust until the job is done!!

Bubba

May 24th, 2010
12:45 pm

Since when is Lamar Alexander an conservative? His ACU score is in the 60s. Just because he’s a Republican doesn’t mean he’s a conservative.

Peadawg

May 24th, 2010
12:45 pm

“Peadawg, I think you have confused the words “disagree” and “hate.” ”

I know the difference just fine thank you. But with your blogs, especially this one, you demonstrate hate. No matter what the Republicans do, you find something to “disagree” with, even when you agree with them on an issue.

Here’s your reasoning, Cynthia:
Republicans want gov’t intervention in the oil spill = bad hypocrites, don’t matter if i agree with them
Democrats want gov’t intervention in the oil spill = good

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 24th, 2010
12:45 pm

Good afternoon all. My disputes:

(1) As a long-time Tennessean, and one who has actually met and spoken with Lamar Alexander, I would affirm that he is a conservative in the mold of George H. W. “Read My Lips” Bush, i.e., not a conservative at all. Rather like asserting that Joe LIeberman is a “liberal” whom Kos ought to be supporting. I don’t dislike Mr. Alexander, truly a nice guy, but he is about as conservative as Johnny Isakson. To disparage “conservative” by attributing an Alexanderism as a core conservative belief is, to put it nicely, misleading. Not completely slanderous, just not true.

(2) More to the point, the final paragraph is 50% correct. A better solution is (a) to abolish the government entity that pretends to regulate drilling, and (b) require BP to make whole all legitimate costs. (b) cures all sins, but empowering another government entity simple adds more waste to the spending.

tm

May 24th, 2010
12:46 pm

Can somebody tell me what exactly the Feds could do that BP is not doing? (Except make it worst)

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 24th, 2010
12:47 pm

Dear Bubba @ 12:42, you said it better/more efficiently than I. Efficiency is the mark of a true conservative, my compliments.

Michael K.

May 24th, 2010
12:49 pm

I don’t really understand why Lamar Alexander would propose this. As Cynthia pointed out, the feds really don’t know how to clean up this spill. So, even if BP isn’t having a lot of success, it still wouldn’t make any sense for the feds to take over. Seems to me that Alexander is just trying to score some easy political points by railing against a foreign oil company.

To paraphrase an old saying, ‘With conservatives like Alexander, who needs liberals?’

I think I actually agree with Cynthia this time. The federal regulators obviously did a bad job and BP should clearly compensate anyone harmed by the spill. The federal government should just focus on those two issues and leave the cleanup to the one party that actually knows how to handle it.

andygrd

May 24th, 2010
12:49 pm

Left, right, conservative, liberal, who really cares. What I care about are the people that are losing their livelihoods and the damage to our environment. The three companies are and should be held responsible, it will take years in the courts, fine, who cares, sort it out. Right now to protect the people and the nation, someone has to step up and take charge. Play the blame game later…….
Bring in the top minds from around the world and solve the problem… If not BP, the then US Government…. I don’t have an answer; I am not as smart as some of you bloggers…… We need to get the oil leak stopped, bottom line. Point fingers later, whine later….. just stop the leak…..

Michael K.

May 24th, 2010
12:52 pm

@Ragnar Danneskjöld

That’s a great point. If the government simply required oil companies to pay for 100% of the damage caused by a spill (and maybe triple damages, for negligence), you wouldn’t really need any regulations. The companies would have plenty of incentive to police themselves. Sounds like a solution to me.

commoncents

May 24th, 2010
12:53 pm

“empowering another government entity simple adds more waste to the spending.”

I agree. If someone actually listens to Alexander, the next conversation would go like this: “The government is now in control of the oil spill and we’ll get this taken care of once and for all! (Cheers from democrats everywhere) BP, what’s our next step? We’re not actually prepared to handle anything like this, nor know how.”

I’m pretty sure a government that’s incapable of regulating an industry can’t run it any better…

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 24th, 2010
12:56 pm

Dear Michael K @ 12:52, I respectfully disagree with your parenthetical multiplier. Impoverishing shareholders is not a valid function of government. “Negligence” means nothing more than “accident” – all accidents have an element of negligence, otherwise they could never happen. We don’t need a nanny government adding multipliers to every automobile accident, for example.

joan

May 24th, 2010
12:56 pm

Conservatives are using common sense. You do what it takes, through the government if necessary, to end the problem. Then you worry about who pays. The government can’t and won’t take over BP. But it can make BP pay. It would be better for all if the government threw its resources at stopping the problem rather than finger pointing. Governmental regulators who didn’t do their job should be encased in concrete and dropped in the hole.

snoooooooze.....

May 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

Cynthia, please, give it up. The main and REAL purpose of government is to PROTECT its citizens. This is an ideal situation for the government. As opposed to taking over the auto, bank, financial and healthcare industries like Hugo Chavez.

bakes

May 24th, 2010
1:01 pm

Image what CT would be saying if it took Bush 12 days to finally respond to an oil spill if he were still President. Love the hypocrisy.

jconservative

May 24th, 2010
1:04 pm

What we want to guard against is creating a new government agency to be in charge of oil spills. We spend enough money on government agencies now. I would like to see the number of agencies decreased not increased.

A history lesson for those willing to learn from history.

When Hurricane Andrew hit during the Bush 41 years there was a lot of criticism of Bush over the “failure” to properly react to the hurricane. Then Clinton comes along, learns from the criticism of Bush, and makes a major increase in the size of FEMA. Now FEMA is a mammoth agency and still gets it wrong. And we have spent billions on FEMA with nothing to show for it but a mammoth Federal agency that eats dollars.

If one uses this oil spill as a opportunity to criticize Obama I assure you the next president, if not this one, will create a huge new agency and we will spends billions for nothing.

Folks you cannot look to the government to fix every problem that comes along.

Michael K.

May 24th, 2010
1:14 pm

@Ragnar Danneskjöld
I was referring to a legal concept that, I believe, has been part of our tort law for centuries. In a tort, if another party harms you, you can sue him to make yourself whole (compensatory damages). However, if the harm was caused by negligence then you can sue for punitive damages which, I believe, are generally capped at twice compensatory damages.

Negligence actually doesn’t mean ‘accident’ under the law. In your auto accident example, negligence would involve driving drunk or driving after cataract surgery. I support the concept of punitive damages because it’s a remedy to situations where the expected compensatory damages are less than the actual economic harm (because the cases aren’t litigated successfully 100% of the time or because frictions associated with legal fees result in settlements that are less than 100% compensatory). That’s not to say there are not abuses in our legal system, but I still think punitive damages makes sense in cases of negligence because it provides encouragement to attempt to prevent harm to others.

Joel

May 24th, 2010
1:16 pm

Peadawg, well at least CT agrees that it is a blind disagreement.

Joel

May 24th, 2010
1:18 pm

BTW, I was fishing in the Gulf over the weekend, no oil.

Peadawg

May 24th, 2010
1:18 pm

LibraryJim

May 24th, 2010
1:19 pm

True conservatives don’t want a take over of BP — or any other company/corporation. In the case of BP, a simple pulling of their government issued leases would do the trick, and turn them over to an American company.

ed

May 24th, 2010
1:20 pm

Your violating my 1 Amendment you hypocrites

Steve Real

May 24th, 2010
1:23 pm

States Rights!
(Respect our rights and stay out!)

Sacrifices have to be made
to keep the hands of big government out of the lives of ordinary people.
Get with the program man!
Stop the Obama socialists
and keep them out of the Gulf
by any means necessary!

This is a states rights issue.
Keep big government out of the Gulf.
We don’t need big government in our lives.
You Obama socialists stay out of the Gulf of the Mexico!

This is just another excuse for big Government
to encroach on our lives.

We don’t need big government in the Gulf of Mexico
not now,
not tomorrow,
not ever.

marimba

May 24th, 2010
1:23 pm

Having watched the clip, it seems pretty clear to me that he means take over the cleanup effort. “Fire BP and take it [the cleanup effort] over.” I doubt he means *at all* taking over the multinational conglomerate that is BP. When Dan Rather (is that who that was?) asks the question, I doubt the Senator heard what was asked, but rather what he thought was asked (that is, I believe he thought the question was did he think that the government should take over the cleanup from BP, not should the government takeover BP). His answer clearly indicates this, as he refers to “the law allows…”–this would be the Oil Pollution Act mentioned later.

Bubba

May 24th, 2010
1:25 pm

I’m having trouble understanding the point of this blog, although I agree with the final conclusion – that BP should pay the entire cost. I guess Jindal is one of the ‘many’ conservatives Cynthia claims are asking for a federal takeover of BP, but there’s no evidence of that whatever in the article she links to. In fact, what Jindal wants is for Obama to waive federal environmental rules so the parishes can move ahead with their own plans for setting up a barrier. How is that not being consistent with conservative principles?

Jeff Fryer.

May 24th, 2010
1:38 pm

If the Saudis owned BP, then our government already took over BP.

Then the Arabs would rule us through oil.

If the Saudis owned BP. How much oil could BP pump if the Saudis owned BP? as much as they could spill, apparently.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 24th, 2010
1:41 pm

Dear Michael K @ 1:14, with your forgiveness, I’ll lead you through the law school discussion of the standards of culpability.

A typical leftist throws a bomb at the Alaskan governor’s automobile as it passes, killing a half dozen people.

Because the leftist intended to kill the Alaskan governor, that is a willful crime.

The bomb also killed the governor’s husband sitting next to her, and because the leftist hope it would also kill him, that was an intentional crime.

The bomb killed the governor’s political pollster sitting next to her. Because the leftist did not care if the pollster died, that was a reckless crime.

The bomb killed the governor’s driver. The leftist did not really want to kill such a wage-earner, but because he threw the bomb, he was grossly negligent.

The exploding car also killed the leftist’s six year old child who was on the sidewalk watching the parade pass, due to the negligence of the leftist.

As to your essay on punitive damages, there is no consistent standard. Some torts, by statute, do not permit punitives; other torts have statutorily defined punitives; yet others are silent, due to lack of controlling statute. There is nothing sacred about imposition of punitive damages, except that those are the source of attorney booty.

Drifter

May 24th, 2010
1:46 pm

You don’t have to be very bright to see that see that Republicans are doing what they learned from the Democrats when Bush was President – blame everything on the President and his administration whether it makes any sense or not. This isn’t a complicated matter – BP created the mess and they need to clean it up…if they need help, there are a lot of people out there that need work and they can hire them too.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 24th, 2010
1:47 pm

Dear Michael K, speaking of negligence, I neglected to note that simple negligence generally does not support a claim for punitive damages – almost always requires a showing of gross negligence or worse, some element of scienter.

Jeff Fryer.

May 24th, 2010
1:49 pm

If we can’t trust the data from BP, and if the government is clueless about the spill, and all remedies have failed, then who is the expert? They’ve even crowd-sourced some solutions, but to no avail.

Conservatives fret constantly about big government and yes, there are silly laws, like that one state law about having a donkey in your bathtub on Sundays……(heard that one on the radio, don’t know it it’s true, but it’s sure sounds like government)……..

…….but with the Goldman Sachs hearings, and the Oil Spill, it’s obvious that nobody is in charge. It’s not big government, it’s ignorant government what’s ailing the US.

We can never anticipate what threats to our freedom will emerge from privacy-abusing, and constantly-morphing technology , and thus we must use the founding father’s words in the constitution to extrapolate protections. If that language was so recklessly formed that a fascist, seven-headed, big-government monster can be derived from those words, then we’re F’d, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

Either we trust the founding fathers or not.

What oil companies do the Saudis own?

Michael K.

May 24th, 2010
1:51 pm

@Ragnar Danneskjöld
I enjoyed your example and I agree that punitive damages have provided far too rich a stream of revenue for the trial attorneys. I was saying that, in this particular circumstance, I can see an argument for subjecting oil companies to punitive damages if they are grossly negligent. I can see an argument for not subjecting them to punitive damages as well.

Sure, punitive damages are, to some degree, arbitrary, but so is everything about our legals system. I worked on the tort case against a set of banks for a the estate of a large, bankrupt energy trading firm and against another set of banks for the estate of a bankrupt cable company and, in my non-expert opinion (I was part of the support team, not the expert witness himself), I thought our estimates of compensatory damages were somewhat creative.

Michael K.

May 24th, 2010
1:54 pm

@Ragnar Danneskjöld
I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll not disagree with you. I had forgotten that scienter was required for punitive damages. In fact, I’m starting to remember that, historically, negligence was required for compensatory damages and it’s only been with the promulgation of the insidious Coase theorem that standards have fallen over the decades. Does that sound correct?

Not on my watch

May 24th, 2010
1:56 pm

Do the free market thing. Put it out to bid, making sure to fully review each bid, all the while accepting bribes to grease the wheels.

Accept lowest bidder, who in turn subcontracts out to a Chinese company that gets hung up on immigration problems, thereby losing another few months.

Jesus is Coming

May 24th, 2010
2:04 pm

Capitalism and Christianity are failed experiments, Marxism and Buddhism will save the Planet.

Javier

May 24th, 2010
2:05 pm

Oh look, another lame blog post that stretches the truth way out of proprtion, and my who you might ask….by the Hyperbole Queen and chief propogandist Cynthia Tucker!

One senator, and you try and make it look like it’s some substantial portion of conservatives. Why don’t you post a link to the entire interview so that everyone can see the context in which he said what he did.

Even if he were to say something closer to what you are implying, so what! We all know that there are a few moderates out ther on both sides that are going to different opinions occasionally with regards to their party’s beliefs.

You’re really reaching there Hypocrite.

You too kramcrap

stranger in a strange land

May 24th, 2010
2:10 pm

Ragnar @ 1:41 – thank you for those distinctions of a willfull crime, etc, – but as I understand jurispudence in the USA at this time – wouldn’t it actually be a case of justificable homicide for a leftist to bomb the Governor if he/she was a right wing, xenophobic, hater? Also, wouldn’t the collateral damage (i.e. the other killings) be the fault of a non-union, Haliburton loving, military industrial complex who maufactured the bomb in the first place (and was probably also a faulty bomb)? Therefore they, not the actual bomb thrower would then be legally and morally liable for said collateral damage?