British Petroleum is now putting a special spin on the crisis caused by the explosion of its deep-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that innocent pensioners in the UK will get whacked if BP is punished, and U.S.-British relations will go down the tubes.
Almost as nauseating as the sight of dead birds, turtles and dolphins rotting in the oil that has gushed from the out-of-control spill is the media campaign that BP has launched, with teary-eyed CEO Tony Hayward telling us in TV ads how very, very sorry he is and with the multi-billion-dollar corporation buying very expensive ads in the U.S. media to tell us what a good job they are doing in fixing the problem.
But this new spin is the most revolting of all. BP and the British government claim that a large number of people in the United Kingdom have their meager savings invested in BP bonds, and that these people will be wiped out if BP is harshly punished for its criminal greed and irresponsibility. Furthermore, London’s Tory Mayor Boris Johnson claims that the BP disaster is leading to “anti-British rhetoric” that is “permeating America”.
The versions of this spin that we see merrily retailed by our corporate controlled media are very short on details. Numbers as to how many British pensioners might be hurt, and how much they may lose, are in short supply. We are not told what percentage of the loss to such pensioners might be covered by government investment insurance like our FDIC. Nor are we being given information on any change in the way the U.S. public sees the British people.
But never mind. Supposing this is not just spin: If poor and working people in the UK are harmed by whatever happens to BP, they should be compensated, just as people in the Gulf of Mexico region should be compensated. And nobody should blame British working people for the disaster. We in the United States would do well to remember that the current British Petroleum multinational combines capital from both the old British Petroleum, which used to rip off oil workers in Iran and elsewhere in such an arrogant way, with the U.S.-based AMOCO and ARCO petroleum giants, heirs to the old John D. Rockefeller empire and thus as American as apple pie, and no angels either. Currently, BP is 28 percent owned by JPMorgan Chase, the U.S. financial giant. Also, U.S.-based Halliburton and Transocean should not get a pass, and may well be in court alongside BP.
We cannot allow corporations run amuck to avoid legal sanctions because of possible harm to their modest-scale share and bondholders or indeed even their employees. In the Enron and Arthur Anderson blowup of a decade ago, you will remember that a lot of innocent people, including many honest employees, got hurt. They were not to blame for their employers’ criminality and should have been compensated. Everybody who is harmed by the actions of BP, Halliburton and Transocean should get redress. Nationalizing these corporations, as Jarvis Tyner demands on these pages, certainly should be elevated to be one of our major demands.
But will that always suffice to compensate all who have been harmed, since some corporations are presumably going to be broke?
Remember, corporations are just means to an end for the flesh and blood ruling class of the United States and other countries. I recently watched the 2005 movie “Fun with Dick and Jane.” Alec Baldwin plays a crooked corporate vampire who sucks his company dry, leaving employees, people who are invested in the corporate bonds for their pensions, and an entire community destitute, and then plans to live the life of Riley off money he has moved to an offshore bank. His comeuppance arrives when one of his former employees (Jim Carrey) and his wife (Tea Leoni) manage to get hold of Baldwin’s personal money and redistribute it to his victims.
Going after BP executives and major investors alone, stripping them to their expensive skivvies and compensating their victims with the money thus “liberated” from individual corporate evildoers will not, however, produce enough money. We need to go after the whole ruling class, which has been having a massive worldwide orgy of unearned wealth and irresponsible power since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher teamed up, and before.
And for damn sure the ruling class has not been going broke, no matter what the crisis. The number of Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis I see tooling around the streets of wealthy Northern Virginia suburbs near where I now live tells the tale.
Let’s go get ‘em! I long to see BP CEO Hayward running down an oil-fouled beach, pursued by angry, sharp-beaked pelicans!