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What do we want from our government, anyway?

June 25, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

This will probably be the final installment in this series of posts about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One major question that has been brought to the fore by the various responses to the disaster is, what do we want the role of the government to be? People booth sides of the debate have been making arguments in this regard. Those who favor smaller government (often, but not always, people who would be categorized as politically conservative) have argued that the government should not be involved, that the free market will take care of things (and presumably that BP will get it cleaned up in due time). Those who favor greater governmental involvement (more likely to be in the liberal end of the political spectrum) have argued that the government has not done enough both to prevent the spill and to aid in the cleanup efforts, whether that takes the form of doing e cleanup itself or forcing BP’s hand.

The Obama administration has responded to these two opposing forces in a number of different ways. They have said that BP is in charge of the cleanup, not least because the federal government simply does not have the equipment necessary to carry it out. At the same time, however, the President has made several tripos to the Gulf Coast to show that the administration cares and is involved.

  Most interesting, however, is the way that the American public has reacted to President Obama’s response to the disaster. Numerous people have said that he hasn’t been “angry enough”. In response to this, the President went on national TV and tried to make the point that he WAS fired up about the situation, that he knew “whose ass to kick”. The question that this makes me ask, though, is what exactly do we want from our President in a situation like this?

What SHOULD be the government’s role be in a man made disaster of this sort? And what is the appropriate role for the nation’s leaders in such a situation?

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One comment

  1. I think the role government have to play in a disaster, whether man-made or natural depends on the magnitude of the disaster. If BP had been able to cup the leaking pipe within the first two weeks, goverment wouldn’t have had much part to play. But after a month of leakage, it was taking a toll on the socioeconomic conditions of the citizens on the Gulf coast which needed goverment to act eventhough it was BP’s responsibility. Compared to a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, the responsibility to help the victims should be directed to the government first before aid agencies.
    The fact always remains that citizens always depend on their leaders to enact good policies for a better living, so when a disaster also strikes citizens expect their leaders to take immediate and active role in alleviating the pain and sufering of the victims.



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