The lethal oil spill off the coast of Louisiana is now believed to be the biggest in US history. So far, the government has taken a hands off approach to the gigantic mess leaving it up to the culprit, BP to clear it up. This strategy has obviously failed as the leak continues to pump oil into the gulf, and Obama is taking a huge amount of flak for his somewhat lackadaisical effort.
A catastrophe of such epic proportions should have been leaped upon by the federal government regardless of its popularity. It would have been the right thing to do morally, and at the end of the day, politically as well.
When governments do things effectively, people like it. Whether you liked the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, the initial attacks were ruthlessly efficient and a sign of just how well governments can plan and carry out complicated and dangerous tasks. The wars were enormously popular initially, and people took pride in the ability of their government to do things.
Yet when government fails to act decisively they can become incredibly unpopular. George Bush’s pathetic reaction to Hurricane Katrina highlighted the need for a strong federal government, and the gigantic financial crisis proved it once and for all. Yet there are still Right wingers convinced that ‘government is bad’ and ‘free markets good’. Writes Bob Cesca in his latest Huff Post column:
Republicans and tea party people have been screeching about the
bailouts. They insist that the banks and financial institutions (and GM)
should have been allowed to fail, rather than receiving emergency loans
from the government in order to, at the time, prevent the American
economy from being dragged down along with these institutions had they
not been hoisted with an infusion of cash.
Speaking of which, the Republicans also loudly opposed the recovery
bill, which included, as a total dollar amount, the biggest middle class tax cut in American history
as well as a considerable amount of funding for the states. Yet the
Republicans, once again, screeched about state’s rights and tried to block the funding.
Yet when it is politically popular to do so, these same free market militants are now coming down on Obama for the government’s weak response to the oil spill. Continues Cesca:
Suddenly all of these state’s rights, anti-government takeover
Republicans are demanding a government takeover of the capping and
cleanup process. (If only someone had blasted uninsured Americans in the
face with reddish-brown crude oil, the health care reform bill might
have received a few Republican votes.)
Bobby Jindal, the state’s rights small government governor who tried
to block stimulus money from entering Louisiana
(though it didn’t stop him from eventually accepting
giant checks during photo-ops), is demanding that the federal
government take over the handling of the disaster.
The spectacle of Republicans flip flopping on issues of government would be funny if it were not so tragic. They spend their careers trying to tear down government, gutting it of much needed tax dollars, and hiring cronies to head departments that benefit corporate industry, then when it suits them, they rail against government for being ineffective and inefficient.
And thanks to them, it often is.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.