May 30, 2010

America's Unrealistic Expectations of Government

BP Says 'Top Kill' Failed to Stop Gulf Leak - NYTimes.com

America's frustration increases as we watch the live video feed of petroleum gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, journalists and talking heads play politics around TeamObama's leadership as we are deluged with the notion, born of frustration, that the government should be able to fix this and (and every other conceivable ill).

This excerpt from today's NY Times is but one example of the pervasive and corrosive belief that the government is the answer to all our problems.

"...The latest failure will undoubtedly put more pressure — both politically and from the public — on the Obama administration to take some sort of action, perhaps taking control of the repair effort completely from BP..."


This ill-conceived notion surfaces because people have been led to believe that government can solve all our problems. I believe this belief springs from a cultural 'victim mentality' often fostered by the entrenched political and bureaucratic class inside the Beltway and echoed by the media.

Unfortunately, in recent years the Federal government has become so large and pervasive from excessive spending that we have come to expect it to solve all our woes. This impossible dream if not shattered with an occasional dose of reality could lead to virtual bankruptcy because "Washington must borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends" (Kathleen Parker in today's Burlington Free Press).

This unrealistic 'fix-it' expectation is on display in the BP Gulf catastrophe. Rational actions should not be spawned from frustration. We simply cannot continue to believe that government has unlimited capacity. BP and the oil industry must fix this. The Federal government has no expertise or capacity to stop this gusher. BP and its engineering partners, as well other companies with undersea deep drilling experience are the ones to stop the flow of oil.

'Federalizing the effort' would be a huge mistake. Moreover, Obama should not be held responsible for something the government cannot fix.

But Peggy Noonan on May 29 in WSJ has this to say:

"Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama's having gone before this week only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to cancel a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.

But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We're in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: When you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well."

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