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They Just Never Go Away May 5, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Republicans are hard at work trying to blame Obama for the Gulf Oil spill. But there is evidence that the real culprit may be our old friend Dick Cheney. (Remember him?)

Political philosopher William Galston presents the case:

Apparently, late in the Clinton Administration, the Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service (MMS) wanted an automatic shut off switch installed on deep oil drilling platforms that was essential in preventing underwater spills. But the oil industry opposed this regulation because of the cost of installing this device. And in 2003 the Interior Department relented.

But as Galston reports:

After the Bush administration took office, the MMS became a cesspool of corruption and conflicts of interest. In September 2008, Earl Devaney, Interior’s Inspector General, delivered a report to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that has to be read to be believed. One section, headlined “A Culture of Ethical Failure,” documented the belief among numerous MMS staff that they were “exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the Federal Government.”…On at least 135 occasions, they accepted gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies with whom they worked.

Galston is curious:

So here’s my question: what is responsible for the [Mineral Management Service’s] change of heart between 2000 and 2003 on the crucial issue of requiring a remote control switch for offshore rigs? What we do know is that unfettered oil drilling was to Dick Cheney’s domestic concerns what the invasion of Iraq was to his foreign policy—a core objective, implacably pursued regardless of the risks. Is there a connection between his infamous secret energy task force and the corrupt mindset that came to dominate a key program within MMS? Would $500,000 per rig have been regarded as an unacceptably expensive insurance policy if a drill-baby-drill administration hadn’t placed its thumb so heavily on the scale?

Halliburton, the company run by Cheney prior to his selection as Bush’s VP, was responsible for the drilling procedure called “cementing” which is known to be a leading cause of well blowouts and had been completed just prior to the recent explosion.

It is worth asking whether a conflict of interest played a role in this disaster.

How many years will it take to free us from the consequences of the worst Presidential Administration in U.S. history?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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If You Want Good Government You Have to Trust Government April 22, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Regarding how we get out of the fiscal mess created by the Bush Administration, Tyler Cowen makes an important point:

Most relevant, perhaps, is Canada, which cut federal government spending by about 20 percent from 1992 to 1997. The Liberal Party, headed by Jean Chrétien as prime minister and Paul Martin as finance minister, led most of this shift. Prompted by the financial debacle in Mexico, Canadian leaders had the courage and the foresight to make those spending cuts before a fiscal crisis was upon them. In his book “In the Long Run We’re All Dead: The Canadian Turn to Fiscal Restraint,” Timothy Lewis describes Canada’s move from fiscal irresponsibility to a balanced budget — a history that helps explain why the country has managed the current global recession relatively well.

To be sure, the spending cuts meant fewer government services, most of all for health care, and big cuts in agricultural subsidies. But Canada remained a highly humane society, and American liberals continue to cite it as a beacon of progressive values.

Counterintuitively, the relatively strong Canadian trust in government may have paved the way for government spending cuts, a pattern that also appears in Scandinavia. Citizens were told by their government leadership that such cuts were necessary and, to some extent, they trusted the messenger.

It’s less obvious that the United States can head down the same path, partly because many Americans are so cynical about policy makers. In many ways, this cynicism may be justified, but it is not always helpful, as it lowers trust and impedes useful social bargains.

Forces like the Tea Party movement argue for fiscal conservatism, though it isn’t obvious that they are creating the conditions for success.

The one thing I disagree with is his claim that this is counter-intuitive. The way to a sound fiscal policy is not putting angry, anti-government know-nothings in control of the government. Since they are not interested in governing but rather in destroying government, they will not be trusted by the vast majority of Americans who think government has a positive role to play.

The problem in the U.S. is that the opposition party, while claiming to want more efficiently managed government, really wants something different—a government that performs very few governmental functions. For conservatives, cutting costs is not about doing more with less; it is about doing less period. 

Cutting budgets for conservatives is a means to destroying government, not making it more efficient. Effective management is beside the point.

Although that will not encourage trust, it will encourage the robber barons who are poised to exploit the ensuing chaos.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com