It’s hard not to be amazed at Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s kowtowing to BP’s Tony Hayward in his comments to the oil company CEO during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing today. To say it was insensitive is an understatement.
To express regret, as Barton did, that the third wealthiest corporation in the world has somehow been “shaken down” for creating a trust fund to recompense victims of the worst environmental disaster in US history is incomprehensible. Where’s the empathy for the families whose loved ones died on this unsafe rig and the economical devastation to the economies of four Gulf States?
This was no mere accident and though an investigation is underway as the Texas congressman has rightfully noted, there is overwhelming documented evidence that BP’s history of safety shortcuts to keep costs down and profits up more than justifies the President in demanding immediate monetary restitution for what will inevitably be required to right the wrong of failed upper-management decisions by Hayward and others of his status at BP. For Barton to stand on the legal principle of due process for an industry that has contributed nearly $1.5 million to his political coffers since 1989 begs the question, “when has he done this for anyone else”?
There are serious economic consequences from this tragedy for Louisiana’s fish and tourist industries as there is and will be in the days and months to come for Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. To stand on a legal position at this juncture would impose undue hardship on these working families. Does he suggest that they “tough it out” and await the court’s ruling over the next months, years and perhaps decades?
Is he aware that full settlement from the Exxon Valdez Alaska spill in 1989 has yet to be fully realized? Would this anti-deficit hawk be willing to allow the federal government to expend taxpayer money to give relief to victims in affected Gulf States, hoping that speedy judicial remedies will be forthcoming to cover someone else’s mess?
Justice of this magnitude moves slowly, but then Barton knows this. Was this behind his thinking when he condemned the White House efforts to find financial solace for many affected Gulf State families now rather than later? This looks suspiciously like Barton’s loyalties to the oil money he gets is stronger than the needs of people affected by this tragedy.
His seemingly superlative stand on legal precedence is quixotic too. Is Barton so ashamed of such efforts to protect the “small people”, as BP Chair Carl-Henric Svanbergb referred to the victims of his company’s failure that the Texas 6th District representative feels he needs to leave America?
“I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure…” Barton told BP’s Tony Hayward. A look must have crossed both men’s eye at that point that had Hayward saying under his breath, “Thanks Joe, the check is in the mail”.