President Barack Obama pretty much stated the obvious when he called the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico "a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster." The oil well pouring a river of crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have the normal type of remote-control shut-off switch used in Norway and the UK as last-resort protection against underwater spills, largely because the oil companies themselves are responsible for "voluntary" compliance with safety and environmental standards.
It was in 1994, two years into the Clinton administration, when this practice of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse was legalized, about the same time George W. Bush was doing the same thing in Texas, a program pushed hard in the previous administration by Dan Quayle's so-called "competitiveness council" charged with deregulating industry. The accident has led to one of the largest ever oil spills in U.S. water and the loss of 11 lives. Voluntary safety for oil wells, but you and I can get stopped by the police if we don't fasten our safety belts? Eleven people have died because Halliburton and BP wanted to save money.
In the first hundred years of this republic it was commonplace for rogue corporations to get the corporate death penalty -- being shut down, dissolved, and having their assets sold off. Through the 19th century, it averaged around 2000 companies a year that got the axe. If the Supreme Court now says that corporations are people -- and they did -- then these corporations should be eligible for the corporate death penalty. Time to break up and sell off the pieces of Halliburton and British Petroleum.
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