Watching BP’s Hayward’s defiantly vacant turn before the Duma, interrupted by his vassal Barton’s apology to his liege for the uncouth locals, we thought not so much about BP but rather the diminished stature of Congress and the nation. That we live under a plutocratic oligarchy? A matter of facts: socio-economic and demographics. The plebes are left with the vapid distractions of consumerism, ‘celebrity’-golems, and the charades of elections, ‘unprecedented reforms’, etc.
Once in a while, a member of the plutocracy has the bad form to pull the curtain back on socio-economic realities and its covering political mascara. Such blunderer must be brought into the coliseum and throw the bread up into the crowd. There are almost never any real consequences – the most painful element is enduring the jeers of people who earn less than their personal driver.
Has the oligarchy paid any meaningful consequences for their staggering malfeasance, misjudgments and outright misrepresentations? Any bank CEO? Big Pharma? Hell, the White House gave Billy Tauzin a Lewinsky. Toyota? Even a ferriner spent only a few scant moments in the 15 minute news cycle penalty box.
True, Hayward’s optics are worse: dying animals and continued spewage. His ineptitude also dragged mandarins from the other
Families oil companies before Congress. While they shared penalty box time with BP they obeyed the social contract and solidarity with class strata. Their displeasure at BP subtle and akin to neighbor on the Hamptons caught with inappropriate entertainment drawing the PoPo to look at the whole block.
But what of BP’s commitment of $20 billion? Non-trivial but still a gesture. It’s a large tip for the doorman for hitting his leg with a briefcase. Didn’t Barton retract his fealty?
Architecturally, under these circumstances, no Potemkin government can take decisive action that will change the actual tectonics. Its masters will not allow it. Of course, this particular Administration finds contentment in obedience to form. It doesn’t even try to step beyond the veil of pretense into the real. Like Congress, they get their role; government minions are permitted to strut and bark (within limits).
The lesson for the rest of the oligarchs? Keep it meaningless and intangible. Avoid siphoning wealth and vitality from the American demotic goo with something tangible like oil, cars. More with Hollywood futures trading. Warren Buffett is texting that as we speak doubtlessly. How our oligarchs must be laughing. They think “What if CDOs were as black and obvious?”