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The Gulf needs relief, not government

by Lou Barletta - No Comments
Posted on June 17th, 2010 8:55 am

Ronald Reagan used to say the nine most terrifying words in the English language were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

For the millions of folks along America’s Gulf Coast, that saying is all too true.

As I write this on Day 58 of the ongoing oil spill, there are 17 separate federal government agencies that share oversight of the leaking well and the cleanup efforts.

To make matters worse, shortly after President Obama met with BP executives – for just 20 minutes on the 58th day of the spill, I might add – he announced the creation of a three-person panel to divvy up $20 billion BP set aside to compensate fishermen, the tourism industry, and others affected by this disaster.

It’s exactly what the people of the Gulf don’t need – more bureaucracy.

They’re already drowning in a red-tape nightmare that, as ABC’s “Good Morning America” discovered on June 15. A news crew arrived at a marina that was just starting to discover tar balls in its slips. The boaters asked to install barriers and clean up the oil on their own before the situation got worse. Instead, they were told they had to contact the appropriate agency and wait for help to arrive. Hours passed, and oily goo continued to seep into this marina.

I’m tempted to ask how our country became so cripplingly over-reliant on the federal government, but I must also ask how the government became so woefully inept at handling a crisis.

This oil spill has exposed serious flaws in our government, just as Hurricane Katrina did in August 2006.

In this case, private industries clearly made serious mistakes. But our government has failed us – and continues to fail us in this area on a daily basis.

It pains me to say that the president failed to lead during this crisis. His response and that of his administration has been too slow, too disorganized, and too scattered. The Obama administration is so concerned about playing the Washington Blame Game that plugging the leaking well seems to be a secondary concern.

What’s even more troubling is that Congress is getting ready to take up so-called energy legislation – under the guise of environmental stewardship – that will increase your energy costs and kill millions of jobs nationwide.

A leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico does not justify the sinking of billions of dollars in a cap-and-tax scheme that will raise your electricity rates and drive manufacturing jobs overseas.

The Deepwater Horizon rig accident is a terrible, ongoing tragedy that claimed 11 lives. Millions more had theirs forever changed, and they face an uphill battle to preserve their livelihoods and their way of life.

BP and other private firms should be held accountable for whatever damages they caused.

But the federal government’s first priority should be stopping the leak and cleaning up the damage. Next, it should determine what went wrong and make sure a similar tragedy never happens again.

There will be time for criminal investigations and federal probes. For now, the Obama administration should keep political scheming at the water’s edge.

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