A political lesson about the relationship between the government and corporate power can be derived from one particular episode in the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.
Oil giant BP wanted to keep the millions of gallons of gushing oil underwater. Out of sight, out of mind was the key component of BP’s publicity campaign aimed at damage control. The image of waves of oil devastating the coast, marshes, wetlands and wildlife could ignite a firestorm of outrage, anger and struggle against BP. So, BP tried to make the gushing oil invisible.
BP executives decided to try to force the oil underwater by pumping 800,000 gallons of another toxic poison, Corexit, into the millions of gallons of oil spreading throughout the Gulf waters.
After BP began using this so-called dispersant, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that the Corexit had killed up to 25 percent of living creatures at 500 feet below the surface. This poison has been banned in England for some time.
The EPA issued a directive to BP to find an alternative dispersant within 24 hours and to begin using it within 72 hours. But BP’s executives told the government and the EPA to bug off. In spite of the government order, BP announced that they would continue to use Corexit.
BP’s arrogance didn’t stop there. BP’s executives announced that much of the data regarding dispersants represents “confidential business information” and, therefore, they have a legal right to withhold it from the public and the government.
What has the EPA and the government in general done in response? The short answer is nothing. Instead, the EPA announced that the government is “currently evaluating all legal options.” The EPA is not stopping BP from dumping another dangerous and deadly chemical into the ocean. It is not getting whatever evidence BP has about the impact of this and other dispersants. It is doing nothing except allowing BP to destroy the ocean and spread this poison to wildlife and, eventually, to humans.
In the United States under capitalism, it is BP and the corporate and banking elites that have their “boot on the throat” of the people and all the planet’s natural resources. The corporations own and thrive; and the rest of us labor for them, while the federal government functions as their guarantor and protector.