Archived Story

Republicans protecting ‘poor,’ persecuted BP

Published 8:30am Friday, June 18, 2010

With election season rolling around voters need to think about who can best represent their interests in Washington.

After all, neither party has done much to represent most Americans lately. It seems our Congress has been more impressed with the interest of big business, big government, and big military than with the citizens who elect them

And it is in light of that concern that the BP oil spill has created a sharp distinction this year between Republicans and Democrats.

While both parties have accepted very generous political contributions from fossil fuel energy producers and, in return, both parties have been very legislatively generous with those companies, Republicans have distinguished themselves recently as representatives of big business and big oil.

Thursday, in a House hearing on BP, U.S. Representative Joe Barton said, “I’m speaking totally for myself and I’m not speaking for the Republican Party and I’m not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself, but I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it’s a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.”

Barton is referring to President Obama’s commitment from the BP Board Chairman to establish a $20 billion dollar fund to pay for damages, a fund to be administered by a neutral third party.

The fund is not a cap on damages, and the cost could exceed this amount.

In addition, the President gained a $100 million dollar commitment from BP to support the rig employees and their families while drilling in the Gulf is halted to ensure safety in the remaining platforms.

Yes, that is correct, the congressman said he believes it is wrong for the company that created the biggest environmental disaster in American history to have to pay for the damage it has done and continues to do to the Gulf culture and species and future.

But Joe Barton is not alone as other Republicans see in the spill a terrible injustice being done to the careless, destructive company that eschewed safety for profit in constructing its deep sea platform.

House Minority Leader John Boehner said that both BP and the federal government should be financially responsible for the spill, before retracting that statement and claiming he now does not want the government held financially responsible.

Michele Bachmann, U.S. Republican representative from Minnesota, urged the BP chair “Don’t be a chump” referring to paying for the spill.

Rand Paul, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky, said he thought the President “Un-American” for criticizing BP over the massive, and continuing spill, noting that “accidents happen.”

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show this Wednesday, noted that the spill, in the total scheme of things, was not really all that big.

After all, Limbaugh noted, compared to the volume of water in the Gulf of Mexico, this spill is like a drop of water in a full bathtub.

Apparently Limbaugh thinks criticizing BP over such a tiny “oops” is just wrong.

And, significantly, Republicans in Congress have resisted new legislation to increase the maximum penalty for such spills, currently at $75 million dollars.

Without the agreement gained by the President, Republicans could have actually prevented adequate compensation to the thousands of Americans living on the Gulf coast and other costal areas affected by the spill … all to protect the very affluent oil company.

The Republican defense of the indefensible would be funny were it not serious.

But siding with big business and against the people of the Gulf region is a very serious choice in how the party views its values and interests.

Remember in November.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.

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