It was one year ago today that Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) embarrassed
himself and the Congress when he apologized to BP executives testifying
before a House committee for how he thought they were being treated in
the wake of the worst and deadliest oil spill in U.S. history, which
devastated local economies along the Gulf Coast.
“I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown … So I’m only speaking for myself, I’m not speaking for anybody else. But I apologize.”
What Barton was referring to was BP’s agreement with the Obama administration to create a $20 billion disaster relief fund to assist Gulf Coast residents suffering massive economic losses due to the oil spill BP had caused. “Shakedown.” Hardly.
Barton’s horrific apology — which he later apologized for offering — smacks of hypocrisy as he attempted to let the oil giant off the hook for what it had done in the Gulf. Investigations showed that BP had made several critical management errors and flouted safety protocols in the run-up to the explosion and resulting disaster. So much for the GOP mantra of personal responsibility. Eleven people were killed in that explosion.
Adding insult to injury to the millions of Gulf Coast residents who are still suffering under the lingering economic effects of the spill, the GOP has taken 13 votes that would directly benefit Big Oil, even voting to preserve taxpayer-funded subsidies to the companies as they tally record profits and saddle American families with $4-a-gallon gas.
While the oil companies profit from high oil prices and high gas prices, the rest of us suffer. Several analyses have indicated this spring’s high gas prices were not fueled by high demand, but by high speculation on Wall Street. Yet even attempts to crack down on speculators driving up high gas prices met with GOP opposition — just this week they voted to cut funding for oversight agencies charged with monitoring oil markets to prevent manipulation and corruption.
So the message from the congressional GOP is this: High profits for Big Oil and Wall Street, high gas and oil prices for you. Happy anniversary, Mr. Barton — I mean anniverSORRY.
David Di Martino is president of DD Media, a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C.