Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama's Katrina

There's been a growing clamor on the editorial and opinion pages of the nation's newspapers on the Obama administration's response, or lack thereof, to the Deep Horizon well blowout and the month-long failure to stem the growth of what will eventually be the biggest oil slick in American waters. It's being called "Obama's Katrina" in reference to the heat Bush and his FEMA folks got for the snafus in the aftermath of the Louisiana and Mississippi hurricane of August 28, 2005.

Investors Business Daily, in a May 27, 2010 editorial points out that multiple layers of government failed in the Katrina rescue attempt before the feds even got involved. And that the current administration has been ineffective in solving the latest problem. But they, and others, are missing the point.

The federal government simply does not have the organization or expertise to address intense, short term issues like hurricane damage and deep water oil well blowouts. Nor should they. The creation of full-time federal bureaucracies to deal with once-in-a-lifetime calamities that can be handled by private businesses is simply not cost effective. And there is no federal agency with even an iota of the knowledge and expertise necessary to corral the Deep Horizon blow-out. But, if it can be done at all, the oil companies have access to the contractors that do have that ability. Hopefully, they will succeed in short order. But it won't be because of federal direction or oversight. Obama and his myrmidons know full well that they are at the mercy of nature and oil company technicians. Obama doesn't know any more about petroleum technology than he does about foreign affairs or economics. Which might explain some of the other problems he doesn't seem to have under control.

It's important that the citizenry come to realize that the federal government doesn't have the answer to every question or the solution to every problem. In fact, there's a long history of federal solutions that lead to more and even bigger problems. Blaming Obama for an oil well blow-out response is silly.