Apparently, Obama is back to thinking he’s fucking El Supremo. Robert Gibbs, Press Secretary of the White House, in a NPR interview on using executive strong-arming with BP:
Mr. GIBBS: Steve, I’d say we’re working on that with a whole host of entities. The point of this is to create, if need be through the legal authority we have, an independent entity to administer the claims process, to take it away from BP, and to ensure that people are getting their claims filled quickly, efficiently and transparently.
INSKEEP: You said the legal authority you have. What authority do you have to force BP to hand over billions of dollars prior to losing some lawsuit?
Mr. GIBBS: Well, again, we have legal authorities under the laws, as passed by the Congress, to deal with disasters such as this. And the president intends to use those authorities to ensure that the claims process for those damaged economically in the gulf is taken care of.
INSKEEP: But do you have authority for the president to say to BP, its CEO Tony Hayward, give me money, give it now?
Mr. GIBBS: Absolutely. BP is the responsible party. They have to pay for the cleanup, they have to pay for the restoration of the environmental damage that theyve done, and theyve got to pay the economic claims for those in the gulf region whose livelihoods have been damaged as a result of their mismanagement.
And they have to pay now – not later, after a court proceeding.
Mr. GIBBS: No, theyve got to pay now. They’re on the hook just as millions in the Gulf are on the hook for money that they may owe on a boat, money that they’re going to lose because they’re not fishing; or a hotel worker, a hotel owner who’s watching reservations for the summer be canceled.
Bullshit. The executive branch has no such power to force BP to do a goddamn thing beyond pay $75 million, the amount of money which was SET BY THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT as the liability cap for oil spills in the wake of the Exxon Valdez.
I’ll spell it out slowly lest the terminally libertarded start screaming about corporate greed and money and power and bed mates and some other stuff which makes no coherent sense. In countries with laws, such as ours, we are accustomed to this little thing called due process. It’s when people go to court to settle shit. Without having said shit settled in court, the accused party has no legal liability other than that spelled out by pre-existing law (in this case $75 million). It’s called Due Process and it’s guaranteed in writing by the 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The President cannot simply assign legal liability just because he wants to, no matter how evil a villain BP may be. Because he is the president who is subject to law, NOT EL FUCKING SUPREMO. He too is bound by laws, despite what his ego may tell him he thinks he’s entitled to in order to make himself look good politically.
I don’t intend with this piece to defend BP, but to simply point out that we have a legally codified process to deal with legal disputes, and that it is guaranteed. Doing away with it for political expediency is tantamount to a government coup.
BP is certainly at the epicenter of moral liability for this mess. But moral liability is not the same as legal liability. And in a land with laws, we must uphold that law, even if it means letting one of those eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil corporations get away with paying much less for any damages they have caused than perhaps they ought. Of course, we can squarely blame the government, not BP, for the “how much they ought to pay” versus “how much they are liable to pay” but that is a different argument entirely. I’m not saying that I don’t think that BP shouldn’t be held liable for every single penny. They absolutely should. But legally speaking, there isn’t a goddamn thing that Obama can do besides take BP to court and sue for damages if it is unwilling to pay out of moral obligation. He can’t just wave his hand and have his will be so no matter how many alleged laws his press secretary can dream up while not specifying them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it (along with a chorus – from the left of all places) until shit starts to sink in: when we get government out of the business of limiting liability, companies will start to act as if they have something to lose and conduct their businesses accordingly.
2010-06-17 » madlibertarianguy