Forgive me if I sound confused but I think conservatives have made a philosophical about face. The very people who have shouted against big government and for states’ rights are now screaming for the federal government to stop the oil spill in the gulf. The “business knows how to regulate itself” crowd suddenly transfers all responsibility for the gulf oil environmental disaster to the big government they want to downsize. Bobby Jindal, who laughed off volcano monitoring, is now yelling daily about the disaster that has polluted his beaches and marshes. However, instead of yelling at BP to clean up its mess, he is yelling at the big government he despises to get the job done. The red states of Louisiana and Mississippi suddenly look to big government to save them when the disaster is in their backyard. Apparently, they think Obama should don scuba gear and close the undersea valve all by himself.

The very people most upset about bailing out the banks and GM are now agitating for a bailout of BP. The Republicans in Congress, spearheaded by Alaska’s Senator Murkowski, are working overtime to block legislation that would increase BP’s financial liability. They want taxpayers, by default, to become financially responsible for all environmental and economic damage caused by BP’s mismanagement. If conservatives succeed in this struggle, they will be forcing taxpayers to pick up all costs above $75 million. That is, they are trying to force a redistribution of income from unaffected states to the gulf. I guess they missed the news that BP, on April 27, 2010, reported a profit of $6.08 billion dollars in the first quarter of this year. Multiply that figure by four quarters in a year and BP is well set to pay for all cleanup costs and not even dent its bottom line.

When Obama did swoop in to save the economy from the worst financial disaster in decades, he was roundly criticized, called a Nazi, and referred to as a dictator. He was told that he should have just allowed the financial firms and businesses to collapse, i.e., let nature take its course regardless of the consequences.  However, when he puts a little faith in BP to clean up its mess, he is roundly criticized for not swooping in and taking immediate control! I suppose if the disaster is in your backyard, your view of big government changes. I wonder what twisted logic small government adherents will use to justify the calls for the government to take responsibility for the oil spill cleanup but not hold BP financially responsible.

The government that cannot do anything right is being begged to “takeover” the BP mess. Apparently, they do not believe that BP is properly equipped to clean up its mess but the big government they loath is capable of doing what BP, an oil industry expert, cannot. Rep. Issa, a Republican from California, says that once the oil was in the gulf, it was the government’s responsibility to make sure the oil did not make it to shore. Really? It is the taxpayers’ responsibility to assume BP’s liability and clean up its mess? We, the people, should stockpile all of the equipment, vessels, and workers necessary to clean up after the oil companies? Do Republicans really think we should be the oil industry’s handmaidens?  BP, and all off shore drilling companies, should stockpile the necessary equipment to contain any oil spills, not the federal or state governments.

Fox News has gone wild with reckless charges that reverse over 18 months of anti-big government rantings. Hannity accuses the government of, of all things, “outsourcing” the crisis to BP! Palin wonders what is taking so long for big government to take over the BP situation. According to conservatives, big government is, suddenly, more capable of cleaning up BP’s mess than BP! Fox has claimed that Obama is in bed with big oil even though conservatives received more than twice the political donations from big oil as progressives. But then, FOX does not allow facts to get in the way. One gets the impression that if Obama had immediately swooped in and taken over the situation, these same people would be singing his praises for doing so.

The tea party elected Rand Paul and to the extent he reflects their views, big government should have a hands off policy for business. After all, he says, mistakes happen. Perhaps Wall Street’s collapse was a mistake. Paul said it was un-American to criticize BP, in spite of the fact emerging evidence is revealing the colossal, cost-cutting mistakes BP made to increase their profits. What happened in the gulf was not an accident to ignore. People made the fatal decisions that lead to the disaster. Whatever happened to accountability, a conservative platform plank?

Where is the consistency of Republican and tea party philosophy? They have proved, once again, that their policies are reactive – anything Obama does, they are against, whether his actions agree with their principles or not. They easily suspend their beliefs for cheap political shots. Their shifting beliefs leave one confused as to how they view the role of government. Conservatives have a chance to clarify their position on the role of government and it is my wish they will take this opportunity to do so.

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Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald

A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.