What I Would Have President Obama Say
Because of the nature of our deadlines here at The Pilot, I'm writing this on Tuesday, well before President Obama's TV appearance
Therefore, I have no idea what he's going to say as he delivers his first formal talk from the Oval Office, addressing the nation on the catastrophic oil -hemorrhage in the Gulf of Mexico.
You have the advantage on me in that regard, Dear Reader. Assuming you pay attention to such things - and I hope you do - you already know what the president will have said. Still, I feel the need to go out on a limb before the fact and set forth what I hope he will say - or, from your standpoint in time, what I wish he had said.
Once I had gotten past the initial details about what has happened and what my administration was doing about it and what kinds of demands would be put on BP and whose backside (besides mine) needed to be kicked, I would then feel compelled to deliver myself of two key points.
Point No. 1: When you start deregulating everything, my fellow Americans - sorry, but this is the kind of thing you get.
I mean, how many disastrous learning experiences need to befall this beloved but battered nation of ours in one two-year -period before we begin to discern a pattern? First the global financial meltdown, then the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia, and now this. Oh, yeah. And there was last year's commuter plane crash in New York, which killed 49 people - and which, according to investigators, appears to be blamable directly on an atmosphere of laxness and corner-cutting resulting from deregulation of the nation's air carriers.
What all the above outrages have in common is that each involved corporate greed running out of control while governmental watchdogs looked the other way - or snoozed contentedly on somebody's lap.
I'm a big fan of the free enterprise system. But Ronald Reagan was wrong when he so famously and glibly declared, "Government is not the solution to our problem - government is the problem." Was government the "problem" when it came to winning World War II? To building the Interstate highway system? To sending men to the moon?
Capitalism is a wonderful system that has played a central role in turning America into the greatest nation the world has ever known. But corporations like BP or Colgan Air or Massey Energy or AIG aren't there to serve the public good, as such. Nor should they be. They're there to maximize profit for themselves and their shareholders.
Their freedom to do so needs to be protected and maximized wherever possible. More power to them. But there is also an indispensable role for various oversight bodies watching after them to help keep them honest. Dismissing the government as a "problem" in such -contexts makes about as much sense as viewing the referees in a football game as bothers who can be dispensed with.
Our contemporary federal government needs to be better and leaner and more -honest and more in touch with the people, for sure. I sympathize with much of the -discontent toward our leadership in Washington felt by the tea partiers and -others. But when push comes to shove, only government can marshal the kinds of resources you need to pull off something on the scale of, say, a Manhattan Project.
Which brings me to Point No. 2.
We should view the BP catastrophe as a pivotal learning experience. This whole sorry and sickening mess should come as a wake-up call forcefully reminding us that we simply can't keep going down our present energy road.
If I were the one speaking from the Oval Office, I would announce that I was proposing a national crash program of unprecedented scope. It would be aimed at developing alternative energy sources and moving as quickly as possible toward weaning ourselves from our insane, ever-greater addiction to oil - most of which comes from countries that hate and despise us.
That doesn't just mean "drill, baby, drill" in search of dwindling domestic sources requiring ever more acrobatic and -environmentally hazardous feats of fossil-fuel recovery technology. It means getting serious about supplementing and -diminishing our need for oil by developing things like wind and solar and hydroelectric sources of energy - and perhaps nuclear as well - on a scale and with a degree of urgency we can scarcely imagine now. It means rethinking our wasteful lifestyles and -drastically revising our transportation habits.
I would call it our Second Declaration of Independence and summon the nation to another moon shot. But then, it's not (or wasn't) my speech.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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