Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Risky Business

“The first step in the risk management process is to acknowledge the reality of risk. Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” - Charles Tremper

Is it just me or have we entered a stage in American business life where corporations and in some cases entire industries have thrown risk management out the window and have decided that all risk is acceptable? There was a time when companies did a series of calculations where risk was measured against not just the corporate good but the societal good, but that time has passed. It has passed because as we have allowed corporations to undermine our political and regulatory bodies their exposure to risk has been greatly reduced not because of better management techniques or greater technological advances but by the corresponding greed of our elected officials. As more money has been deposited into the already murky waters of Washington and state capitals the American public has seen its share of risk underwriting increase in direct relation to the reduction of underwriting by corporations.

As the disaster in the Gulf continues to play out instead of having a real national referendum on the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy technology we are treated to elected officials apologizing to corporations for their having to pay for the worst natural disaster in American history. The sad part is that this was not some natural disaster that no one could foresee it was a calculated series of premeditated violations and oversights for the sake of cost cutting and profits. Once again Mr. Paul with all of your teabagging cronies we see what happens when corporate America is left to its own devices. According to Mr. Paul the free market will protect us from these types of disasters because it was not in BP’s interest to drill a hole in the bottom of the ocean that they could not plug up, just as it wasn’t in Goldman Sachs interest to market and purchase credit swaps and derivatives. The crazy part about the smaller government crowd is that even despite the massiveness of this disaster their lesson from this is that government doesn’t work because it can't plug up a hole in the bottom of the ocean? That's like the lesson from Vietnam was that we should have stayed longer.

What corporations have earned from all of that campaign cash and straight up bribes is that the new risk mitigation program is the American taxpayer. Bring the economy to the brink of another Great Depression, no problem the taxpayers will bail us out. Drill a giant hole in the bottom of the ocean, no problem the taxpayers will pay for it. Unless of course you have a gangster government from Chicago in charge that does shakedowns of poor innocent corporations who were just minding their own business when out of nowhere this giant hole appeared under their deep water drilling platform. So what does the Supreme Court decide? That we don’t have enough corporate money in the process let’s give them unlimited access to public officials.

The sad truth is that what we are watching is the same thing that other empires and cultures have witnessed during the days of their demise. It isn’t the American people who will bring about the final demise of America (although in a sense it will be but through apathy) it will be the greedy and immoral political and economic leaders. The same leaders who are willing to risk our long term future not only as a nation but as a species on this planet for their short term profit. It has always been the corrupt rulers of an empire or culture that has brought about the destruction of that empire or culture. The role that we play as citizens is that we become so apathetic and jaded that we quietly sit with our heads between our legs while the plane is crashing. Where is the uproar? Mr. Barton should have been tarred and feathered and ran out of Washington on a rail. Unfortunately for America it is going to take some greater disaster than this for us to finally realize that the cheap oil party is over. It will take gas going up to 5.00 a gallon and electricity prices doubling before we will take clean energy serious and demand that our political leaders pass real energy reform legislation.

Just like every other monumental change in American history it is never from the top down that things get done, it is always from the bottom up. There will be no good guy riding in with the white hat on the white horse to save us. As long as we continue to accept that Chevron is in the human energy business, that banks are in the rebuilding America business, and that corporations are our benevolent friends whom we could never survive without then we will continue to have messes like this to clean-up. We have to understand and accept that it is not the President’s job to get Mitch McConnell, Joe Barton, and the rest of the corporate apologists on board, it is our job. It’s not like the President is the only one who is elected in this country. We have an opportunity to change the debate and the direction of this country forever and that thought is scaring the hell out of all of the energy companies. Will we demand the future or will we continue to cling to the past? The choice is ours.

If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. - Dan Quayle

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