Competition is inherent in politics. In our fast paced digital age we have shunned in- depth exposés for quick tweets about who is up and who is down. The talking heads elites in media and punditry use political sabermetrics to compare approval ratings at various times in presidential administrations. These politicos mainly use their heaps of quantitative data to extrapolate. In other words, if Americans thought Bush sucked going into the midterm elections and Barack Obama has similar approval ratings around that time, then barring any confounding factors, we can predict that Obama will suffer a similar fate. Although numbers technically do not lie, the people interpreting them do. Similarly, some comparisons are unwarranted, no matter the situation. For instance, Lebron will never be better than Kobe until he gets a few rings. I don’t care how similar their numbers are. Hence, the media’s recent rush to liken the BP oil spill snafu to Hurricane Katrina is another example of too much extrapolation and not enough understanding.
To juxtapose the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to a natural calamity that took hundreds of lives, put a city under water, and displaced many families is a bit misguided. Although both are disasters in their own right, they are still much different. First, although the hurricane itself could not have been averted, there were certain precautionary measures that government could have taken eons before Katrina was even a tropical storm i.e. strengthening the levees. Furthermore, the oil spill is more so the result of a corporation cutting corners than a government ignoring the pressing needs of its’ already marginalized communities. Indubitably, the oil spill is an unfortunate event at the very least, however comparing the current Gulf crisis to the former seems to be folly.
With all of this said, I believe the politicalization of the oil spill is sickening. Both BP and the White House are culpable. According to Dr. Boyce Watkins, BP earned $16 billion in profits last year. However, “according to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the maximum liability that can be faced by an oil company during a spill is $75 million.” This means that after the hoopla surrounding the oil spill is over it will back to business for BP. Although I would not dare say President Obama’s response to the oil spill is similar to President Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, I will say that the administration seems to be handling damage control very aloofly. It would be nice to see a sense of urgency on the part of the Obama administration.
Could he possibly be dragging his feet because
- He has accepted more than $213,000 from individuals who work for companies in the oil and gas industry and their spouses.
- Two of his bundlers are top executives at oil companies and are listed on his Web site as raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the presidential hopeful ?
I’m hoping that it is none of the aforementioned. I hope rather, that he is diligently gathering facts, assessing the situation, and waiting to make an informed decision. Today he will hold his first meeting with an independent commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Thereafter, he is supposed to make a statement to reporters. Hopefully, he doesn’t extrapolate too much, because too much extrapolation leads to misguided comparisons.