Thursday, June 17, 2010
Obama puts the hammer down on BP!
Impressive, Mr. President!
After delivering a dispassionate speech from the Oval Office on national television the night before, President Obama met with the top tier of British Petroleum executives, as promised. The result? A $20 billion escrow fund to help recompense victims of the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico! Twenty billion dollars!
The money is to be managed not by BP lawyers and accountants, but by Kenneth Fineburg, the person who managed the 9/11 Compensation Commission. In effect, BP has lost control of the money. A $20 billion shakedown!
The President emphasized that this $20 billion is not a cap to damages. It is a down-payment.
If you recall, Congress had been debating whether or not to raise the penalty cap from an insignificant $75 million to a more significant $10 billion, but couldn't manage to do even that because of BP's bipartisan gang of defenders in the US Senate. Let's list some names, just so people can remember: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), James Inhofe (R-OK). There are others, as well.
And recall back to the last big oil disaster, the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Exxon worked our corporate-structured legal system for all it was worth. Five years after the spill, a court ruled that Exxon must pay $5 billion in punitive damages for its negligence. But Exxon lawyers went to work with appeals and legal stall tactics. In the end, 19 years after the spill, Exxon had reduced the amount they must pay to a paltry ~$508 million. The Alaska fishermen and conservationists got the shaft.
President Obama precluded any such injustices. With this move, the President has outflanked BP's defenses. Those Armani-suited corporate lawyers, the bought-and-paid-for Congress critters, all are rendered irrelevant. The money goes into an escrow account over the next 3 years.
What a victory! My confidence in the President was flagging after what I had considered to be a desultory statement the night before. I feared that he was afraid. Now, BP has been given notice that the down-payment of their penance is to be $20 billion and no dividends will be paid to investors. And all the Big Oil robber barons at the other Big Oil corporations got a message, too.
To top it all off, after the meeting, after they had just had their ears pinned back like truant juveniles, BP executives came to the microphones to apologize to the American people!
Can anyone imagine how differently it would have turned out back in Junior's day?
Wait! I see a vision. A grim but satisfying vision.
I see Dick Cheney, fists clenched at his temples, teeth gnashing, face bent upward toward the ceiling of his Wyoming dungeon. He is raging, raging, raging. White hot fury! Raging, in the darkness! "Never!" he rages. "Never! Never! Never! I'll die first!"
Watch your back, Mr. President!