Environmental wasteland - Martha Carr

There is something about the people and the environment of the Louisiana coastline that inspires government officials, particularly on the federal level, to look the other way until things have gone horribly wrong, and then rush in with too little too late.

Political leanings seem to make no apparent difference.

It's about to happen again with the new federal permission slips being handed out by the Obama administration to the oil companies to allow drilling in formerly protected U.S. coastlines. The cart is being put before the technological horse, as big business once again gets its way.

Recently, it was monetary bailouts paid for by the average taxpayer, so that CEO's at car companies and major financial institutions could continue to take home enormous bonuses while thousands of Americans were laid off without the same kind of consideration. However, we got the bill for the whole thing, anyway. That started with the previous Bush administration and was continued with an equal force of will by the Obama administration.

This time, the big oil companies are not being forced to first, prove they have adequate technology or expertise to protect their employees or the fragile ecosystems they'd like to invade, before they construct new drilling towers along our coastlines. The Obama administration decided that, since there had been no accidents lately, maybe everything would be OK.

Then the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people and injuring several others as the well began leaking thousands of gallons of oil 5,000 feet below the surface. BP, who leases the well, at first, stated that it was 1,000 barrels per day, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised that number to 5,000 barrels or 210,000 gallons every day. BP had given a gross underestimation.

BP has tried several attempts to, at least, capture the oil without any success, and says it will take, at least, two weeks to cap the leak and the reality is it may be eight months. Based on their earlier estimates, there is concern that the longer version is more accurate.

Commercial fishermen, who were at the beginning of their season, have been banned from any kind of fishing for at least 10 days, which is turning into another economic tsunami for an entire industry. Bet they don't get offered a bailout.

BP responded by first saying they'd hire some of them for the clean up, then ignoring them, and now, there are reports that they were being required to sign waivers releasing BP from any physical or financial harm, if they'd like a temporary job. There's a pattern of corporate behavior that's emerging.

President Obama responded by saying the federal government would assist BP, not lead the cleanup. That's being left to the company who's already failing at solving what is being called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history in a region that was just coming back from Katrina. Meanwhile, the oil continues to pump out into the ocean.

Obama went even further stating that the new oil leases would also be allowed to go forward. Nothing has changed in Washington, at least not for the better. When in a tight corner, the administration bows to big business and the smaller voters get to stand in line.

That was the same philosophy behind the decisions to ignore the decades-long cries to fix the levies outside of New Orleans, and in 2005, we got to see what that meant for a part of Middle America. At least 1,836 Americans died and thousands more were stranded from a lack of preparation or a quick response.

There's a favorite game we play among ourselves when something goes wrong in America. We blame whoever is in charge and get angry on the behalf of those who were wronged, but we don't take any personal responsibility, because we either didn't vote for them, didn't vote at all ,or feel that once we have voted, whatever happens is the responsibility of those we elected. It's an enormous cop-out and a shirking of what is rightfully ours.

The average middle American who is trying to do their job, feed their family and do right by their community ought to matter just as much as the CEO sitting in an enormous office in another part of the country. If you agree, the easiest way to make sure all of those people we elected know that, is to contact them and let your voice be heard. For more information, go to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml. Otherwise, we won't have any room to complain when the next financial or environmental disaster happens, and in the current mindset, it's only a matter of time.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.