The Final Lesson of BP
BP is starting over. It just named a new American president, and its finances are looking up. BP's second-quarter report showed surprisingly strong revenues of
It doesn't seem to matter that BP was responsible for the worst environmental disaster in American history. Consumers worldwide -- including Americans -- continue to slurp up its oil.
But wait a minute. If BP emerges from this debacle fatter and happier than anyone imagined a few months ago, whatever happened to the idea of corporate accountability? Does this mean any giant corporation can wreak havoc and then get back to business as usual?
Corporations aren't people. They have no brains, no consciences, no capacity for intent or guilt. Every one of their moveable parts can be replaced, just like BP's former CEO,
If we want corporations to act differently, we have to force them to do so through laws that are fully enforced and through penalties higher than the economic benefits of thwarting the laws.
Here's the real outrage: In the wake of the BP spill, essentially no laws have been changed -- not even a ridiculously low cap on damages private parties can collect from oil companies. Senate Republican leaders said last week that they wouldn't support a bill retroactively removing the liability cap; not even Democrats
Because of Big Oil's political clout.
The same anthropomorphic fallacy that accords human attributes to giant corporations like BP distorts clear thinking about how to limit their political influence.
Consider the grotesque
In March, the District of
To top it off, the
Now, all the limits are gone and the gloves are completely off. Even
The will of the American people is being subordinated to the demands of giant moneymaking machines called global corporations that can now spend or threaten to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of any politician willing to help them make more and against any who might cause them to make less.
This is the final lesson of BP.
What should you do? As with the loophole-ridden finance reform law, and the new health law that richly rewards Big Pharma -- get angry, not cynical. Commit to getting big money out of politics, even if it takes us years.
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Business - The Final Lesson of BP
(c) 2010 Robert Reich