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Joan E. Dowlin

Joan E. Dowlin

Posted: June 10, 2010 04:07 PM

Memo to W: Another Fine Mess You Got Us Into

What's Your Reaction:

Dear George,

I know it has been over a year since you left office and that your past administration and fellow Republicans would like to have the American public start blaming the current occupant of the White House, President Barack Obama, for any disasters that now occur, even labeling the recent Gulf Coast oil spill "Obama's Katrina." However, it's more complicated than that.

But before I get into that, let me digress. To briefly sum up, these are the messes you left behind for our present leader to clean up: two wars, an economic recession bordering on a great depression, major banks, mortgage companies, and automobile manufacturers going bankrupt, a home foreclosure crisis, a stock market plunge, the shrinking of the American dollar, a failing health care system, illegal immigration becoming out of control, rising oil prices, an exploding national debt, and high unemployment.

That's a lot of mess to inherit. In fact, I can't think of any modern President who has had such a difficult task of righting the ship of state at the start of his first term. Considering all of this, I believe Obama has done a decent job. We didn't go into a Great Depression, the banks and car companies have started to pay back their government loans, the housing market is coming back, the dollar and the stock market are rebounding, we have five months of job gains after a year of losses under your second term, and Obama and the Congress have passed comprehensive Health Care Insurance Reform as well as a Financial Regulatory Bill. We have a ways to go but I believe we are on the right path.

Now I know that these inherited crises are not all your fault. Congress and Wall Street did their share as did past Presidents going all the way back to Jimmy Carter (shortage of oil crisis) and Ronald Reagan (who began the practice of deregulating corporations.) Bill Clinton could have done more to avoid the mortgage crisis (knowing the housing bubble would eventually burst) and could have stopped more American businesses from going overseas by not passing NAFTA.

However, it seems to me that your last eight years were dedicated solely to fighting two costly "wars on terrorism" while neglecting the environment (ignoring climate change which, it could be argued, caused Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters which has bled our economy), deregulating Wall Street banks, mortgage companies, easing safety standards for coal mines and big oil, while expanding the deficit by cutting taxes for the rich as you bloated the defense budget.

Which brings us to this latest crisis of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred on April 21, 2010. Seems the government agency designated to oversee oil production, the U.S. Mineral Management Service (MMS) has been quite cozy with BP and other oil companies. In fact, they have literally been in bed with the oil industry as their employees accepted gifts from the gas and oil industry and had inappropriate sexual relationships with representatives from these industries through 2008, which was on your watch.

President Obama has admitted his administration should have acted faster to clean up the corruption in MMS which they were aware of through a federal probe led by Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar. But it seems to me the President had a lot of other things on his plate at the time.

Exploding oil rigs have a way of bringing to light the relationship between government and corporations and redefining our political discourse. It is obvious we need to make reforms so that the "fox is not watching the chicken coop."

This has also shed light on Halliburton, your old friend and VP, Dick Cheney's corporation of choice. Seems they bear some responsibility for the cement oil well casing not being built strong enough.

The irony of this whole situation is that those (mostly GOP members) who for the past year have criticized Obama for expanding the government as he attempted to pull us out of a possible depression now want him to intervene and regulate BP and the clean up. I think they are right about that, but it seems like a bit of hypocrisy on their part.

The silver lining of this new mess is that maybe we will now start to wean ourselves off of our oil addiction and begin to expand clean energy; something you and our leaders have been promoting for the last thirty years.

We have heard the term "too big to fail" applied to banks but we really practice it when it comes to the oil companies. I remember seeing a TV commercial during President Jimmy Carter's term that showed a cardiogram with the sound of a beating heart while stating: "As a country that runs on oil, we can't afford to run short." We are still living out of that reality, even though it's the 21st Century and we have a computer culture and have created electric cars, and wind and solar technologies.

We have seen the consequences of our addiction as we have ravaged Mother Earth with this massive oil spill and supported questionable regimes overseas. We have also allowed coal miners to die in mine explosions because we need our energy fix.

If we are to continue our oil dependency we need to at least regulate the drilling and have safety as a high priority as we make the transition to newer, cleaner, re-usable energy sources.

Perhaps that is something we can all agree on in this poisoned political climate. In the meantime, we need to back our current President who is doing his best to continually clean up the messes we have all contributed to.