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.