Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Helpless Titan

From Doc Zero at Hot Air (hat tip to Instapundit):

The current federal government of the United States is the largest, best-funded organization in human history. Our public debt has grown to over $13 trillion. We pay hundreds of billions per year just to service this debt. The federal government has over two million civilian employees. The Postal Service, all by itself, employs more people than any American company except Wal-Mart. Our government has shed almost every vestige of Constitutional restraint over the last few decades, exercising powers that would have shocked the Founding Fathers.

And yet, this federal titan is currently face-down in the oil-soaked waters of the Gulf of Mexico, its flabby arms twitching feebly. It has become too bloated to stand up. It can only lie there and scream threats at private citizens and corporations, until vast sums of money are shoveled into its maw, to sustain it for a few more years.

It’s not necessary to ignore the misdeeds of British Petroleum to criticize the appalling performance of our massive super-State. Big Government and Big Business have become so entwined that any disaster on the scale of the Gulf oil spill, or the subprime mortgage crisis before it, will have both public and private agencies to blame. Suggesting that government cannot be criticized until every one of its private-sector “partners” has been bankrupted or nationalized is a recipe for tyranny. We should study the example of BP and understand that only one half of the government-business alliance can call press conferences at will, addressing a media prepared to extend them unlimited credit for their good intentions.

One of the reasons Big Government is so helpless in the face of an actual crisis is that it never learns anything, because it evades blame and consequence for its failures. The politicians who brought you the subprime crisis are richer and more powerful than ever before. The Gulf oil crisis may well end the same way, if the Democrats use a lame-duck session of Congress, plus resources from their new minions at BP, to shove cap-and-trade legislation down America’s throat. Like ObamaCare, such a bill can inflict serious wounds to American liberty during the two years it will take to replace a President determined to veto repeal attempts.

Indulging the urge of politicians to increase their power and wealth produces a government that spends all its time feeding, instead of doing the things it’s supposed to be doing. It is blinded by hunger, and uninterested in duties that yield no direct political reward. The lavishly funded agency in charge of regulating offshore drilling scarcely bothered to inspect the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. It’s painfully obvious that the Administration didn’t notice the Gulf crisis until it became a political problem. Our vast government apparatus was completely unaware of a large supply of containment boom until Jake Tapper, an ABC reporter, told them about it.

Even now, as oil begins fouling the coasts of our Gulf states, the federal government is entirely focused on shielding itself from blame, and taking advantage of the crisis to absorb more money. Out on the high-octane open waters, they’re shutting down oil-skimming barges over trivial bureaucratic issues. Bobby Jindal, the desperate governor of Louisiana, has taken to ignoring the comatose federal giant slumped across his coast, and getting things done on his own. Unable to think rationally or compare costs to benefits, the government panicked and shut down offshore drilling… just as previous generations threw hysterical fits, and killed nuclear power and DDT. We’re spending an awful lot of our children’s money on this government, and getting very little value in return.

No Presidential speech could obscure the fact that incalculable, perhaps irreversible damage has already been done, while union politics prompted the President to ignore valuable offers of assistance from foreign ships. Innovative strategies for dealing with the oil gather cobwebs while the Administration focuses on the really important task of securing a $20 billion down payment on a massive new slush fund. Of course Obama and the Democrats will steal much of this money, the same way they robbed the taxpayers for political cash and called it a “stimulus.” The reptilian Bart Stupak has already floated the idea of raiding the BP fund for health care money. I wonder if some of it would end up paying for abortions.

Over at Liberty Pundits, Melissa Clouthier watches in horror as Obama and BP dance a stiff, lightheaded tango of incompetence, and wonders:

Long term, do Americans want the President to have the right to confiscate or bully funds from a company that is clearly wrong-doing but the law has not meted out justice, yet? This seems like a dangerous precedent.

It’s especially dangerous because the government is likely to spend most of its time confiscating and bullying, rather than getting its hands dirty with the duties it should be fulfilling. Incompetence is the opportunity cost of corruption.

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