We Don’t Know How To Deal With Big Problems

Reading and watching much of the 2 year anniversary coverage of the BP spill in the Gulf, I’m left with the grating feeling that we don’t know what we’re doing as a society when it comes to big problems that we make. I don’t mean to suggest that these problems are inherently unsolvable, only that we don’t have the solutions going in. We have plans* for what to do when the deep water spills leak, but we don’t have a good job of figuring out what to do when those plans fail.

It isn’t just the oil spills. We’re more than a year into a slow motion disaster in Fukushima. And while these are, of course, a failure of regulation, they’re also a failure of corporate power. I don’t know what the solution is short of shutting down corporations that behave as badly as BP.

* You can debate the quality of the plans, of course. But whatever the quality of the plan, it obviously didn’t work.


  1. 1

    Some Random Jerk spews:

    There’s a very simple reason behind this: There’s no real penalties for the perps behind this. Nobody’s going to jail, nobody (important) who is responsible will have their lifetime earnings confiscated to pay for the cleanup. As long as those in power have no incentive to actually protect the environment they’re raping and pillaging for their own personal profit, those clean-up plans will be as minimal as they can get away with.

    Heck, they’ll be as minimal as they can get away with if we do put strong penalties in place, but they wouldn’t be able to get away with as much. ;)

  2. 2

    Pete spews:

    We don’t have the solutions going in because in the United States, as in Japan and many other countries, the political process is dominated by financial elites whose self-interest is in denying that there are any potential problems. You can’t spend time thinking about solutions if there are no potential problems that might require them.

    For the same reason, when the problems then inevitably occur, less political energy is spent on mobilizing to identify solutions, and far more is spent on trying to convince the public that it’s not nearly as bad as it looks, or to hide the problems from the public entirely.

    We. Are. So. Fucked.

  3. 3

    The 5% spews:

    or perhaps human’s arent perfect creatures, and sometimes shit fails.

    Everytime people think they are just too fucking smart and full of themselves(sounds like lots of progressives here), nature(and chance) comes around to bitch slap the human race back to reality.

    and there aint a damn thing wrong with that.

    quit your fucking bitching already. If you dont like it, then go farm for yourself, make your own clothes, provide your own electricity, and throw your chinese made apple product into the trash.


  4. 4


    The big thing that bothers me is that 11 people died and no one has so much been charged with anything. If someone went to jail on that one I’d bet people would start paying attention.

  5. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Of course corporations have a plan to deal with disasters. This is it:

    Phase 1: Deny anything happened.
    Phase 2: Point fingers.
    Phase 3: Call in the lawyers.

  6. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Yeah right, the BP disaster was an “act of nature,” and BP’s corporate culture of ignoring safety to maximize profits had nothing to do with it …

    Please, God, send us smarter trolls …

  7. 7

    ArtFart spews:

    @1 In fact, it might be just the opposite. When something’s really FUBAR, those who know about it keep quiet because of the near-certainty of “kill-the-messenger” syndrome.

  8. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Here’s how you solve a little problem: Hire cops to enforce the law!

    The Italian car market is being flooded with cheap second-hand Ferraris and Maseratis, now that the Italian government is going after rich tax dodgers.

    There’s nothing quite like a fire-engine-red Maserati in the parking lot of a fancy ski resort to call attention to the fact you’ve got money you haven’t been reporting.


    Roger Rabbit Commentary: Trying this kind of shit in North Korea isn’t recommended. They shoot counterrevolutionaries.


  9. 10

    The 5% spews:

    6. Roger Rabbit spews:
    @3 Yeah right, the BP disaster was an “act of nature,” and BP’s corporate culture of ignoring safety to maximize profits had nothing to do with it …

    Please, God, send us smarter trolls …

    04/23/2012 AT 9:58 PM

    you completely missed the point, fool.

    04/23/2012 AT 11:52 PM
    9. Roger Rabbit spews:
    Amazing what you can find on the internet …

    Yes, especially when you ignore wife, grandkids, etc…and have no life – im sure you can find all kinds of shit on the internet…

  10. 11

    yd spews:

    Ha Ha Ha You got that one right, you don’t know how to deal with BIG PROBLEMS, like a 16 Trillion dollar debt..Spend your way outta debt. Great Plan!

  11. 13

    YellowPup spews:

    I see it as a failure of regulation, a gamed system that makes politicians cower and pander to the oil and nuclear industries, and allows these industries unlimited power.

    The private sector’s response to the Gulf can be seen on television all the time: propaganda about how oil companies love teachers, science, and clean natural gas.

    Want to get really depressed about big problems? Check out The Conundrum by David Owen:


  12. 14

    rhp6033 spews:

    Yes, the BP oil spill is an agreggious example of our inability to deal with environmental problems caused by large international corporations.

    But it’s only one such example. The current system is set up so that whomever is in office has to deny anything significant is wrong, and the guys out of office argue that a disaster is looming, real or imagined.

    Nobody since Carter was President is willing to tell the truth to the American people – that we have problems, and it will take personal sacrifice (i.e., higher taxes, reduced benefits, higher energy bills, etc.) to fix them. We have been living in 30+ years of the “rosy scenario” and “read my lips – no new taxes” mentality.

    In the meantime, if Carter’s budget and energy programs had been put into effect in 1980~1984, the budget would have been balanced by 1990, and the federal debt paid off by 2000. Energy consumption based on foreign oil would have dropped below zero, making us a net exporter of oil by the mid-1990’s. Retirement systems (social security, medicare) could be fully funded well past the baby-boomer generation.

    Our failure to be able to address these problems makes it difficult to see if democracy in the U.S. is still viable.

    And on an issue not yet addressed with any real degree of effort, we have the decline in education in real terms in this country, which corresponded with some twenty years of educational development in Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, India, and China. Their 9th grade students can pass college exams which cause our junior college students to struggle. But few politicians are willing to say anything other than “we have the best education system in the world”, defying all evidence to the contrary.

  13. 15

    rhp6033 spews:

    Of course, part of the problem is that there is a group of Republicans in power in the House who WANT significant parts of the American social system to fail, so that the taxpayer would be forced to rely instead on private industry to provide what used to be provided publically. This includes:

    * Medicare. Insurance companies want that business for themselves – why should they have to compete with no-profit government adminstration – heck, they have limited salaries and no big bunuses/stock options!

    * Social Security. Wall Street positively salvivate at the prospect of Social Security Trust Funds being turned over to them to “manage” on behalf of individuals. Lss, of course, their usual 1% per year administrative fee, transaction fees, no-transaction fees, small balance fess, large balance fees, etc. Also, 401(K) managers give Wall Street CEO’s big bonuses/perks to hype their firms, they don’t want to miss out on that!

    * Education. De-fund education to the point where it can’t do it’s job. Blame problems on the teachers and their unions. Then claim that the system doesn’t work anymore, abolish the public schools, and give tax deductions or credits for tuition at private schools (only the upper middle-class and above benefit from the tax deductions or credits). Everyone else is on their own.