Absolution For BP?

June 14th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Credit the Albuquerque Journal for moving quickly to confirm what I say about its journalistic bias.

Tuesday I argued that Journal management expresses its political convictions not just in editorials or lopsided Op Eds but also in “news” coverage, via a simple expedient – spending great reportorial energy ripping government and none critiquing business.

The very next day the Journal featured a Robert J. Samuelson column extending absolution to BP.

Samuelson found the author of the historic oil spill guilty, mostly, of that common human failing, complacency.

How, you ask, could a widely syndicated (political) economist produce such twaddle? First by asking the American Petroleum Institute for numbers that suggest the industry’s safety record was good before BP’s Gulf disaster.

Leaning on that credible source, Samuelson could conclude, “the success of deep water drilling led to failure. It sowed overconfidence.”

And concentrating on that “intriguing aspect” permitted Samuelson to ignore details like BP’s drilling shortcuts and deceptive spill estimates.
No surprise there; Samuelson habitually justifies corporate America.

But what makes his exculpation of BP a joy is the cynicism; he knows better than to describe a corporation in human terms.

A corporation is a legal entity established precisely to divest executives of responsibility and to push aside human, non-commercial values.

Corporations are not only inhuman. but they’re not responsible to society the way people are, as free market economist Milton Friedman famously explained in “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (N.Y. Times Magazine, September 13, 1970).

Moving right along, it’s noteworthy that Samuelson chose to ignore OSHA records showing BP’s history of “flagrant” safety violations, including failure to reform after its 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City.

Per OSHA, two BP refineries not only account for 97% of all “flagrant” violations in the U.S. refining industry, but most of the violations cited were classified as “egregious willful.”

Complacency? Sounds more like serial corporate crime or, maybe, business as usual.

But I need not rebut sophomoric Samuelson. Having presented his perspective, the Journal surely will publish other views.
Oops. Wrong.

I forgot that the Journal drops a few pro-corporate economists into a sea of laissez-faire-ists, but cannot find a single liberal economist.
Left-of-liberal economists? Don’t be silly.

This is unfair to Journal readers, but fairness is a journalistic concept, not a corporate responsibility.

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