"State Beaches Soiled; 'The Gulf Is Bleeding,'" read the headline. "Obama Visits For Third Time As National Anger Grows."
The headline raises this question: Why are Americans angry? For roughly 30 years, huge numbers of us have supported Ronald Reagan and his descendants in the anti-regulation wing of the Republican Party. But events such as the BP oil spill are the natural by-product of a philosophy that trumpets the free market and limits government oversight.
So again, why are we angry? Shouldn't we have been expecting this?
Like many Alabamians, I feel a deep sense of personal loss as I watch events unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. I have many fond memories of vacation trips to the sugary white beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, and now I wonder if I will ever see them in pristine condition again.
Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork News-Journal, has an excellent photo essay that provides an up-to-date glimpse at conditions on Alabama's shoreline. You can check it out here:
Beauty and the Beach: The Week BP's Oil Hit Alabama's Coast
For Mrs. Schnauzer and me, one of our fondest memories as a couple came when we took Murphy (1993-2004), the beloved miniature schnauzer for whom this blog is named, on a trip to Gulf Shores.
Here's how we described a portion of that trip in a previous post:
Just how nuts were we about Murphy? My wife bought a baby carrier for the trip and used it to carry Murphy with us on strolls along the beach. Talk about a show stopper!
People from all over the country--Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, you name it--stopped to talk about our "schnauzer in the baby carrier." A number of folks took pictures of Murphy in the baby carrier. "We've got to show this to our friends back home," they said.
My wife and Murphy even wore matching "mother and daughter" caps, causing more folks to stop and chat. Here is a photo from that trip, one we always will cherish:
How did the beaches in Alabama and other Gulf states come to be imperiled. There probably are many answers, and we aren't likely to know them all for quite a while. But one of the fundamental reasons is this: Ronald Reagan preached that corporations should be allowed to operate without interference from government regulators. In fact, this single tenet could be called the building block of the "Reagan Revolution." And Americans, in vast numbers, have been supporting that idea at the ballot box for some three decades.
But look at what our shortsightedness has brought us. Not only do we have oil washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico right now, but we still are struggling to recover from a financial meltdown that was driven by deregulation, hitting home in fall 2008. Before that we had multiple corporate scandals--Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, HealthSouth, and more--that were driven largely by lax government oversight.
In short, we asked for the Reagan Revolution. And boy, did we get it. We are reaping what we have sown--and it's an ugly picture to look at.
I'm not excusing myself here, by the way. I cast my first presidential vote in 1976 for Jimmy Carter. But throughout the 1980s, I became a dunderhead, voting twice for Reagan (1980 and '84) and once for George H.W. Bush (1988). I finally pulled my head out of my rectal cavity in 1992, and it's remained out ever since--at least when it comes to voting matters.
But how could so many of us have been so blind? And a frightening number of us remain blind, ready to blame Barack Obama for a catastrophe that was building long before most anyone had heard of the black guy with the funny name.
Perhaps one of the best statements I've heard about the mess in the Gulf came recently from a Republican--Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell.
In an interview with therealnews.com, Wilkerson lays much of the blame at the feet of former Bush vice president Dick Cheney. Wilkerson notes that, in just eight years, Cheney undid roughly 50 years of a regulatory framework that had served the country well. Some 1,600 of Cheney's minions remain in place at key agencies, and Wilkerson says it will take Obama at least two years to root them out.
The idea of massive deregulation, of course, did not start with Cheney. It started, in its modern form, with Ronald Reagan. "We have stripped the government of its ability and its capacity to do the things it should do, that no one else can do--certainly not someone with a profit motive," Wilkerson said.
Here is the most alarming part of Wilkerson's message: We ain't seen nothing yet. "We're going to be paying dearly for this for years. There are going to be more oil spills, more bridges collapsing, more hurricanes that catch us by surprise in their devastation."
You can check out the Wilkerson interview below: