Gulf spill: now Obama truly has something to answer for
H/T Erick Erickson
I've written on these pages and elsewhere that the mess in the Gulf is not Obama's fault and that most of the damage his reputation has taken has been due to his stupidly taking responsibility for a situation which is out of his control.
A story in Tuesday's Houston Chronicle, however, offers some damning evidence of Obama possibly having made an enormous mistake by refusing offers by the Dutch government, who have substantial undersea construction, oil cleanup, and barrier building experience, to come aid BP and the US government in Gulf cleanup efforts.
The story also describes another law of a particular type which harms the US: "The Jones Act, the maritime law that requires all goods be carried in U.S. waters by U.S.-flagged ships, has prevented Dutch ships with spill-fighting equipment from entering U.S. coastal areas."
That proposal, like the offer for skimmers, was rebuffed but later accepted by the government. BP has begun paying about $360 million to cover the costs. Once again, though, the Jones Act may be getting in the way. American dredging companies, which lack the dike-building expertise of the Dutch, want to do the work themselves, (Dutch Consul General in Houston) Visser said. “We don't want to take over, but we have the equipment,” he said.
Much like the Jones Act, the better-known Davis-Bacon Act (from 1931) forces the federal government to pay inflated union wages for construction contracts, costing taxpayers billions of dollars and ensuring that government spending, including so-called "stimulus" spending, buys us much less than it should.
The Obama Administration is utterly beholden to unions and therefore reticent to try to override even temporarily these laws which harm Americans at times when we particularly need efficient, effective work done in a hurry. President Bush briefly suspended the Davis-Bacon overpayment requirements for much of the Gulf area during the response to Hurricane Katrina, but soon thereafter caved in to allow them to come back into place. The act had been suspended a few times before including during the Nixon Administration when they believed it was adding to inflation. Regardless of the truth of Nixon's fear (he was, after all, a guy who didn't understand economics very well or he wouldn't have tried price controls), the fact that we have a law which presidents feel the need to suspend whenever we need work done quickly and cheaply -- and that they then reinstate the law when there's less urgency for the project -- says that this law has to go. It simply can't be allowed to stand for the federal government to follow a law which they know costs taxpayers money and delays the completion of projects, something they obviously know given the reasons and timing of the law's various suspensions.
If there is any president unlikely to suspend Davis-Bacon, it's The One. He is owned by unions since they spent so many millions of dollars on his election and since he likes them anyway; perhaps he sees them as fellow "organizers", which is to say that perhaps in nature parasites have grudging respect for each other.
In the meantime, the fact that Obama turned away the Dutch offer for help is the first thing I've seen where the Administration made a serious error that now gives it some culpability in the extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill's damage to the Gulf Coast.
For the record, while I want Obama to fail generally, I don't want him to fail at the expense of the livelihood of many thousands of Gulf Coast residents nor at the expense of the beautiful and fragile ecosystems in the area. I wish Obama were actually competent in this case, but sadly he isn't.
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