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No Strings Attached

by on April 11, 2011

I think it’s as admirable as the next guy that BP gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Gulf Coast states that were affected by last year’s oil spill that was so large that Transocean, the parent company of the deep sea well, was given an award for its safest year ever.  But where does the money go that BP agreed to pay?  SUVs and iPads?

In sleepy Ocean Springs, Miss., reserve police officers got Tasers. The sewer department in nearby Gulfport bought a $300,000 vacuum truck that never sucked up a drop of oil. Biloxi, Miss., bought a dozen SUVS. A parish president in Louisiana got herself a top-of-the-line iPad, her spokesman a $3,100 laptop. And a county in Florida spent $560,000 on rock concerts to promote its oil-free beaches.

Sometimes this should be called blatant corruption, and sometimes it shouldn’t. I agree with the official who said that the money needed to get out there. Again, I commend BP for actually providing money. It becomes the problem of the recipient of that money, the state, for ensuring that it is used correctly. What about people who lost their job (as well as the 11 who lost their lives)? Do they get money?

Government, including states, exists to provide citizens with relief from disaster. Disasters include natural and man-made. An earthquake is a natural disaster. A melt-down of a nuclear reactor is a man-made disaster. The explosion of a deep sea oil rig is both. Oil comes gushing out, and reaches the shores and livelihoods of man.

To provide relief, government has to have an income (and, like it or not – regardless of the euphemism you use – income means taxes).  It probably is not reasonable to levy a massive tax (in this case, BP paid out hundreds of millions of dollars, which probably wasn’t sufficient) on the populace of only coastal counties; a tax that would cover oil rig explosions.  Since that is not right, it is right that the money comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is BP.

However, states also exist, once they have acquired money, to make sure that money is distributed correctly, according to need (and while need should reflect social values, such as education, after a massive oil spill need implies many things, among which an iPad is not prominent).  What might be needed in this case?  Efforts for cleanup; relief for those who lost jobs.

It is the government, more than BP, who needed to, and effectively did not, attach any strings to the distribution of relief money.  Oh, there must be some strings, but they are probably hanging loose somewhere.  Find those strings, please.  Secure them.

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