Obama gives a speech everyone thought was flat. BP ponies up $20 billion and suspends its dividend.

Lots of people thought that Obama’s speech last night was flat.

BP begs to differ. They’re going to suspend their dividend and pony up the $20B.

Look, I’d like to get cap and trade or a carbon tax, too. And I don’t know whether the man has a plan to get there. But I didn’t know that about health care, either, and yet here it is.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

16 thoughts on “Results”

  1. "yet there it is" — ummm, what's that that's "there" — I've been unemployed for approaching two years (broken by a short spell of employment) and my wife's job is quite insecure as she works for a state that is looking at abysmal (as in as deep as an abyss) deficits. If she loses our group coverage, I can buy catastrophic coverage on the open market but she is entirely uninsurable thanks to polycystic ovaries, familial history of breast cancer and having been treated for depression in the past. Our cash burn rate to maintain COBRA for her will cause us to wipe out our savings and emergency money in less than a year before having to turn to depleting our IRAs to try to serve our mortgage and keep her covered.

    What exactly is this "health care reform" of which you speak?

    When we get treated anywhere near as well as Indymac then we can talk about Obama's great results:

  2. JMG: if it helps, you're not alone.

    I am unemployed too, probably about to get cut off (partly my fault, I admit, though I have been looking, just not *exactly* the way I am supposed to… which, btw, is so last century… though other than that, the system has treated me fairly enough), and I pay for individual "coverage" out of pocket. (I also have preexisting what-nots.) I am thinking of dumping my insurance and trying to get into the state high-risk pool that, under the Obama plan, is supposed to exist by sometime this fall. Some Beltway genius thought it made sense to restrict it to people who'd been without coverage for 6 months (though a very nice LWV lady said she hopes they get around that).

    It is very, very frustrating to not know what is going to happen, or if the state will think I am "uninsurable" enough to let me in, or if it will be considered "irresponsible" to drop my "coverage," or what it will cost. And somehow, I have a feeling that everyone in the individual market got told that they were "high risk." This pool could end up being a lot larger than expected, which in theory, is good, right? I mean, it's *insurance.* On the other hand, like you said, dismal budgets.

    Is it time for a leap of faith on my part? At least there is the *possibility* that there will be a net. There wasn't one before. I think I am at the place where believing in the future is an existential choice, one not indicated by events, certainly. What choice do I have?

    But I feel your pain, I really do. It could have been so much better. It is a very non-optimal plan that we got. But it's not the President's fault that we live in a stupid (though nonetheless lovable) country. I really don't think we can pin that on him. (Blanche —–ing Lincoln! … Lieberman!!! …)

  3. Mark, we get it. Barack Obama is better than George Bush. As for the $20,000,000,000, get back to me when we come out on the other side with uncountable citizens and businesses of the Gulf Coast and those who are hurt by the inevitable ripple effects made financially whole for the duration. Which is how long it's going to take for life (from zooplankton to sperm whales) in the affected area to recover. In the meantime explain to JMG and NCG how "Yes We Did" has helped them and the millions in the same boat with them. In any case, compared to Jimmy Carter's so-called "Malaise Speech", last night was weak-assed, wishy-washy green tea. At least on the printed page; after so much fecklessness I do the same with BHO that I did with GWB: turn off the radio.

  4. Yeah, he doesn't know how to coordinate a response to an emergency, but he knows how to shake down corporations. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but he's always going to be inept at actual governance. Plugging the hole? Can't do that, too incompetent. But making sure trial lawyers get their payday this year? Done.

    In any case, I'm not sure what the agreement actually means. I mean, does Obama think that he's able to set up a separate court system outside the one established by law? Apparently. This is just lawlessness on the largest scale imaginable. But for a good cause, and so obviously excusable. I remember fondly when Congress involved itself in matters such as remedies available at law, and when appeals are available from a tribunals judgment. But that was long ago, before the Age of Obama.

    Since BP insists–almost certainly correctly–that they shouldn't have any liability for the lost wages of oil workers thrown out of work by Obama's moratorium on drilling, and since they have also agreed to donate $100 million to those workers to make them whole from Obama's policy, shouldn't someone investigate whether that kind of gift is legal under our laws? Was there a quid pro quo–is BP avoiding criminal liability because they've made this donation? We should have details on this, but we won't, because this deal was struck in private and from what I can tell they don't have any intention of actually embodying the terms in legislation.

  5. "explain to JMG and NCG how “Yes We Did” has helped them and the millions in the same boat with them."

    I'll explain it to myself, KLG. I voted for Obama and have been unemployed since last November.

    It's hard to know where to start. I guess with the stimulus. I have a pre-existing condition and am uninsurable. While eligible for COBRA, I couldn't have afforded the premiums, which were reduced by 2/3. My unemployment has been extended, along with COBRA. My family is also very happy. As for the rest of the stimulus apart from the safety net, the spending and tax cuts – I have no problem with the notion that government spending stimulates the economy… and at this point that debate isn't even about economics but about ideology.

    Health care. Unbelievable. If you had asked my in 2004, after re-electing Bush, I would have told you that Americans were utterly hopeless. I'm still on the fence, but yeah, I'm pretty f'ing stoked we did what we did.

    Cabinet positions. This is probably the biggest "we did it" for me. Conservatives putting people to lead agencies that they don't even believe in? That's called trolling. The head of the secretary of the interior was a Libertarian. That's like having a pacifist as secretary of Defense. From incompetency to outright fraudulence, we actually have people in government who believe in what it is meant to do.

    Other that I tend to agree with Obama ideologically, and find him entirely competent and wise in that regard, most of the rest just comes down to the politics of the practical. If he ever had any, he's used up his political capital and is now just fighting it out day to day with the political mood of the country. Powerful forces shape opinion and get politicians elected. They then shape the process.

    But at the end of the day, the main thing standing between what I would have Obama do is simply ideology and understanding of the issues. As long as my cousin thinks Obama wants to take away his guns and "ram government down our throats", or that "redistribution" is actually a bad thing, all I can really do is make my case – here and elsewhere. Tell him to stop watching the insane rantings of the people on FOX. Appeal to his better nature.

    The government is us.

  6. Eli: I appreciate your reply. I hope things look up for you soon. From October 2007 to August 2008 I was without a job, but I supported the President with time and money. Obama had a chance to be a transformative force that we wanted, needed, and, yes, voted for. He sold us on that. He lied. No one thought he could or would be successful in everything, but what we didn't expect was that he would fail to recognize his, and our, enemies. Or that he would not fight for what he told us he believed in: public option, return to the rule of law, closing Guantanamo, our whole freakin' country back from the Vandals who had it. He lost me forever when he called Jamie Dimon and the execrable Lloyd Blankfein "savvy businessmen." In that single comment he revealed an astonishing lack of understanding of where we are and how we got here. You are right. The government is us. And "us" elected a champion who can't handle Chuck Grassley or Max Baucus, but can, finally, put a Blanche Lincoln in position to get waxed in November. Pity.

  7. Were people always like this? I sort of presume they used to be more realistic about what possibilities are & are not open to leaders, but that may not be right. My sympathies to JMG, but the Administration’s political fate will be determined mostly by people who lack his acute personal experience of the limits of its ability to deliver. Their disillusionment has other sources.

    Remember 2006-07. Conservatives who until then had swallowed their ideological quibbles w/ Bush because he’d been their man & a winner were by that point mostly relieved that immigration reform presented them w/ a plausible excuse to abandon a sinking ship. I hope liberals don’t make this Gulf well failure the equivalent of that.

  8. I'm trying to figure out how on earth Obama's speech had anything to do with convincing BP to suspend its dividend and go with the escrow fund.

  9. I'd suggest you review the difference between "correlation" and "causation", but technically, I don't think two isolated events that happen to occur on the same day even rise to the level of "correlation".

  10. "I hope liberals don’t make this Gulf well failure the equivalent of that."

    I kind of hope they do. At SOME point you have to wake up and realize you've been suckered. Republicans took way too long with Bush, why should Democrats aspire to be as clueless?

  11. Mark: "But I didn’t know that about health care, either, and yet here it is." Obama did press for health care reform, consistently and frequently. Admittedly he was vague about the details, like the public option; and rightly so, as it's hard to argue that he could have got a law any more progressive than the one that passed. On global warming and cap-and-trade, he doesn't make the case, and has just passed up the golden opportunity to do so. "Oil pollutes – what you don't see is even worse than what you do." (Cut from oil-soaked pelican to Bangladesh flood.) This doesn't look to me like a cunning plan to get a climate bill, more a decision not to fight an unwinnable battle. I'd love to be wrong.

  12. Brett Bellmore says:

    "I’d suggest you review the difference between “correlation” and “causation”, but technically, I don’t think two isolated events that happen to occur on the same day even rise to the level of “correlation”."

    They aren't isolated events, and it's very odd that they'd happen on the same day. I would suggest that you review the difference between 'correlation' and 'reality', but it's clear that you don't like reality.

  13. BP knows that criminal indictments and civil fines are coming and that this $20 billion is largely or entirely going to offset criminal penalties and civil fines when such are determined. Agreeing to put the money aside now amounts to free good will. The only reason not to do so is if they decide they're best off paying huge dividends and then declaring bankruptcy.

    While it may say something good about Obama's Justice Department, the $20 billion set aside has little or nothing to do with Obama's speech, which was quite flat and pointless.

  14. KLG: thanks for the compassion. I appreciate it. I do have to say though, things for me could be much worse. I am actually pretty lucky to have supportive family, and (knock on wood) good health.

    What I worry about is all those people out there with no support system, or who are still facing ruinous health costs, eviction, and so on. And a huge chunk of the unemployed are never eligible for any help to begin with. Our governor is actually proposing to end the welfare system in CA. That's the best idea he can come up with, and heaven forbid we should dare to tax oil extraction. I guess a carbon tax is somehow unthinkable to a guy who supposedly cares about the environment.

    The GOP is not the same party it used to be. Robert Dole, Nixon, Kemp – none of them would have stood for this kind of hatefulness, and where are their heirs? (Even Tom Campbell is dead to me now — cutting aid to blind people? Really? I actually voted for him once, a long time ago, because I thought he had something to offer and I wanted to encourage him even though he was about to get crushed, and I am a Dem. I was wrong about him. And he's the best they've got out here!! By several miles!!!)

    The DP literally has no one to talk to. So Brett, if you're going to lead some kind of rebellion of reasonable conservatives, please hurry up. (I have no clue what the Tea people want, besides a non-existent free lunch, and I don't think they do either.) Unless you are a libertarian, in which case, as you were. ; >

    Four years *is* a long time to wait for a better health system (and I expect that to be really a jumping-off point). But without this administration, maybe it would have been forever.

  15. They aren’t isolated events, and it’s very odd that they’d happen on the same day.

    Let's put it this way: If the two events were causally connected, the announcement of the escrow fund in Obama's speech is more likely to have been the result of the decision by BP to establish the fund than the reverse.

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