Watching the Congress grill Tony Hayward kept me from peak productivity today as my frustration with the government boiled over. After listening to the back-and-forth it became more apparent than ever why the approval rating for Congress is so abysmal as it quickly became clear that the banter had more to do with having sound bites for reelection commercials than for any other reason.
Many of the questions in the hearing had to do with why BP hasn't fixed its problems with safety and it was pointed out repeatedly by government officials that BP has been plagued with such challenges for many years. But Dear Congress, my readers and I pay your salaries and are wondering - If you knew this company had such a bad safety record, why did you allow them to drill in some of the most deep and difficult waters on the earth? Or here is a better question, did anyone in our government exchange something of value giving BP access to lucrative government oil drilling contracts?
This is a question we need an answer to and now.
More questions I couldn't help thinking about are what happens if this crisis bankrupts BP as I am almost certain it will. If oil keeps gushing from US waters, does it not eventually end up on the shores of other nations as well? If this happens does it not mean that the US will be liable as the oil comes from US waters? Does this not mean that the US taxpayers will subsequently be responsible for what happens to the beaches of the world?
Then my thoughts went to corruption and disgust. The US government is massive with hundreds of thousands of regulators in banking, insurance, oil drilling and other industries. This crack team of workers missed the housing/banking bubble - they somehow thought that housing prices had to appreciate forever. They didn't do their jobs which had to do with reducing risk and preparing for worst-case scenarios.
I try to steer away from politics - I really do but when regulators make decisions based on the interests of the large corporations at the expense of the little innovative entrepreneur it really upsets me because I have a responsibility to my readers to ensure they have choice. This means choice in telecom, technology and everywhere else. I have seen regulators favor big telcos over and over because of cozy financial relationships between industry and regulators.
One would imagine it is a conflict for regulators to take a job in the industry they regulate but this is not the case. Think about this for a moment. In any other industry this behavior could send a person to jail.
The worst part about this situation is that the government knows this is the case but they continue to grow its size with more departments and czars which means more places for corporations to throw money making it more difficult to rein in the system.
Didn't the country vote for change?
Isn't change we need reducing the size of government so it doesn't trip over itself every time it tries to solve a simple problem like effectively regulating a variety of industries it is supposed to effectively manage? Here is some great change... How about an end to lobbyists? How about an end to growing the government needlessly or change we can believe in like introducing government accountability similar to what takes place in virtually every business in the world?
Moreover, the massive size of this bloated bureaucracy is partially responsible for problems the nation is dealing with. Low interest rates set by the US Federal Reserve inflated the dotcom bubble making it much worse than it would have otherwise been. These same low rates coupled with the desire of democrats to have housing for all (people who could not afford homes) drove prices to the point that the very people who could not afford houses in the first place ended up buying a home at an inflated price point. This in turn fueled the market for exotic mortgages and Wall Street constructed financing which led to the eventual housing bust.
Oh and to keep this from being too partisan, Bush actually bragged about record levels of homeownership under his watch but the reality is many of these homes were eventually lost.
Next, we have the oil spill. Let's see - you are an oil regulator and it never occurs to you that oil could leak or a drilling rig can sink? Are US regulators so fat and lazy that what seems like common sense to a child doesn't occur to them? Rest assured that with a fraction of oil company profits, we could have technology which would currently be protecting the pristine beaches and waters of the Gulf.
When Obama was elected he told us the earth would heal - he really did - even if he didn't use his Blackberry to send an email telling the nation's workers that it was time to start covering the globe in Band-Aids shouldn't the regulators have raised a flag somewhere along the line?
You know I am not an oil expert or regulator but then again I don't create trillions of dollars in deficits... If I did, I would also find a way to use all this cash to plug the damn hole.
But somehow with a government record of decades of incompetence in so many areas from budget management to crisis management (think Katrina) the Obama administration has decided that more workers and subsequently increased red tape in the government will make things better. President Obama, do you really think a ton of manure will smell better than just a few pounds?
Please don't get me wrong - I am not trying to bash the man, it seems the whole country is ganging up on him - but he is for big - no make that huge government and I have something to tell him. Government workers are not very competent. And I really have nothing against government workers - they would become competent in most companies because they would get fired otherwise.
In other words the government is inefficient because it can be. It is a lesson in how not to manage because when it fails it can print money and/or borrow money and/or raise taxes. In the government failure generally has no consequence.
If my company could print money I would write a blog entry a year or maybe not even that often. Incentive is the fuel of any efficient organization and once removed even the most competent group becomes like the Soviet Union - bloated, lazy, incompetent and inept.
Companies are far from perfect and BP is certainly today's poster child. But at this point it is apparent to most of the country that probably any successful entrepreneur would have the sense to put down the golf clubs, roll up their sleeves and get down to the gulf, assemble a team and solve this problem. This is what leaders do.
To Americans we see the country on fire and we want to see the President and Congress evacuating the building not talking endlessly. The oil is still gushing and no one should be sleeping in Washington until they stop it. If my office building was on fire I would evacuate it first to make sure everyone was safe and make sure the fire was out. Only then would I send an email about not leaving electric heaters on and assign blame. Until this hole is plugged all we want to hear about is how little federal workers aren't sleeping because they are brainstorming about ways to solve this problem.
We want to hear about submarines with special fittings designed to plug oil leaks. We want to hear about one mile siphons which can such up oil like a vacuum cleaner.
The typical American was already fed up with the way the system works. They are in a recessionary environment where their job is on the line and they routinely drive by groups of state or federal workers talking while one holds a shovel and half-heartedly pretends to dig.
Moreover there is a massive disconnect between how the government works and how many information workers do. I have seen the tech industry go through absolute hell these past ten years. There have been so many catastrophes it is tough to recall them all. Bubble bursts, 911, Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, housing and credit bubbles - it is insane. Yet those in the tech and other spaces keep working harder and harder - I can send an email to any exec at virtually any hour all week long and get an immediate response. The competition in this space is massive - the need to stay on the cutting edge is constant. But the government seems to be going in the opposite direction - what competition or bubble bursts do they have to motivate them?
It is no secret that Obama is at war with capitalism but worse is the fact that pure capitalism really doesn't exist when large companies can hire lobbyists and influence elections on a grand scale. We should be doing business with a new breed of competent small banks but instead are faced with the bailed out incompetents. Moreover Obama is feeding the working class the poison of entitlements which are fueled by diminished opportunity resulting from greater taxation on the job creating class. The unemployment numbers continuously show the US that the failed policies of Greece and Spain won't work any better when covered with stars and stripes.
We are at a crossroads - our president is leading a war against capitalism while regulators and even he secretly sleeps with the enemy and nothing is what it seems. The system is too big to manage and the managers have no management experience. As a result the American taxpayer is feeling frustration and realizes the system is broken and needs to be fixed. People voted for change but they hoped it would be for the better.