American Elephants


The Enormous Effectiveness of Big Government On Display. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has tried to show how involved he is, and that he is completely in charge of the disaster in the Gulf.  He has summoned up all the power of the federal government and ordered BP to put $20 billion into an escrow account and appointed another Czar to manage the distribution of the funds.  BP has been managing its own dispersal of funds quite promptly.  They have accepted full responsibility.  Presidential bullying is a misguided, and illegal use of presidential power.

So what do you want the President to do?  To start, he has way too many people in charge who are apparently tripping all over each other.  It is within his authority to offer instructions to federal agencies involved in the spill and clean-up to concentrate on mitigating the damage rather than on nitpicking regulations.

Eight days ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of the waters reaching the beaches and wetlands.  Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped oil out of Louisiana waters into steel tanks — a n idea that seemed to be very effective at collecting the goo.  Today the barges sat idle.  The Coast Guard came and shut them down.  Jindal said “You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, ‘Cease and desist.  Stop sucking up that oil.'”

It seems the Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board the barges, and they had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

Along the Gulf Coast, frustrated governors ask who is in charge?  Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said that he too has had problems with the Coast Guard.  He asked the Coast Guard to find ocean boom that was tall enough to handle strong waves to protect his shoreline.  They eventually found some in Bahrain, but when it came time to deploy it they deployed it in Louisiana.

It’s not just the Coast Guard, but the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “It’s like this huge committee down there,” Riley said.  “Every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

This is what the president is supposed to be doing.  He has the power to order cooperation, to clarify chain of command, to suspend regulations, and to get useless hands out-of-the-way.  He has just ordered in another 1700 National Guard members.  Bureaucracy is, as usual, the enemy.  Nobody knows who is in charge, everybody gives conflicting orders, everybody tries to obey the vast array of regulations.  And if the regulations don’t work, they’ll be happy to add another layer.


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