Monday, May 10, 2010

Corporate Accountability (With Strings)

Now that we’ve accorded the rights of the individual to corporations, I’m wondering if perhaps we shouldn’t extend the liabilities as well.

Our latest corporate disaster, the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling project, presents a perfect case in point.

As a job seeker, I am repeatedly told that cardinal sin number-one is overstating your abilities and credentials. It is grounds for no-questions-asked termination.

Yet the two failed attempts at shutting down the fountain of oil that is spewing a quarter-million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day clearly indicate that British Petroleum wildly overstated its capacity to deal with a problem of this magnitude.

Requiring them to absorb the cost of the clean-up and make restitution to the afflicted parties would seem to be the most-obvious solution.

Unfortunately, the guardians of the corporation that we pretend are our elected representation have limited oil company liability in these instances to just seventy-five million-dollars, or the rough equivalent of one day’s income for a company that earned six billion-dollars in the first-quarter of 2010.

Further proof of how deeply the corporate virus has infected the government of the United States would be that big oil was awarded this cap in exchange for an eight-cent-a-barrel tax on the oil they produce.

When was the last time the government asked you what concessions you needed in order to absorb a new tax? A couple of days? Months? A year or two ago?

Or never.

Publicly, BP has said all the right things. But per usual, actions speak louder than words. And BP has already begun to divest itself of culpability by insinuating that the cause of the spill lies with the out-sourced manager of the rig, Transocean Ltd.

I’m guessing BP’s squadron of highly-paid legal counsel has already begun to outline its defense strategy. And that victims won’t get paid if BP doesn’t get paid.

This ongoing tragedy will have repercussions far beyond the duration of the oil’s flow from the Gulf floor.

Most tragic is the persistent belief that allowing oil companies to drill within the United States somehow protects the United States from its dependence on foreign oil. This is the “Drill Baby, Drill!” crowd’s favorite argument.

Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to ask them why they believe oil drilled in the United States will (or even must) be sold in the United States. The naiveté is staggering.

For those blinded by the right, businesses only allegiance is to profit. Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum don’t care where the oil came from. Only where they can sell it for the best (i.e. highest) price.

There is no law which demands that oil drilled or refined in the United States must be sold in the United States. In other words, you’re not guaranteed an endless supply of gasoline for your GMC Yukon XL because it was drilled off the coast of Louisiana.

Is that plain-enough for you? Do you get it now?

So. While individuals are responsible for the claims they make, corporations with the rights of individuals have liability caps to protect them in the event their propaganda is shown to be something less than true.

God bless the Corporate States of America. I am thankful I will never have to defend them in war.

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