Even Sarah Palin, my fellow Idahoan (she was born there), agrees that greed caused the financial crash. That’s the crash that has visited the despair of unemployment to some 13 million Americans, evicted millions in foreclosures, and a cast a gloom over the future of young Americans now exiting universities. “I think the corruption on Wall Street. That’s to blame. And that violation of the public trust. And that contract that should be inherent in corporations who are spending, investing other people’s money, the abuse of that is what has got to stop.”
Public Citizen hereby presents some startling figures on the object of that greed: “Hourly Rates: A Modest Essay about Extraordinary Paychecks.”
For example, every fourteen minutes in 2009, hedge fund manager David Tepper made President Obama’s annual salary. No matter how well compensated our Hollywood and sports stars are, the real money comes from the business of money. The AFL-CIO’s PayWatch noted that recently major bankers, apparently embarrassed by their dependence on record taxpayer subsidies, have tightened their belts. Thomas Montag, president of global banking at Bank of America, received only $29 million, or $14,500 an hour. But the hedge funds have demonstrated no such restraint. The magazine Institutional Investor declared David Tepper the best paid hedge fund manager in 2009 at $4 billion. To put this in perspective, that is $2 million an hour. That is one million dollars every half hour. A Pittsburgh native, he donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon University, which gratefully changed the name of a graduate program to the David Tepper School of Business. That was half a week’s paycheck.
None have pinned the crash on David Tepper. But the lure of such large paychecks led many to shed prudence for pecuniary pursuits.
flickr photo by sjorford
So after nearly a year, we have an answer to the question that has baffled so many who have studied the BP oil disaster: Why did the blowout preventer – the piece of equipment that the oil industry claims is THE THING that will absolutely stop gushers no matter what- fail?
Turns out that the force of the oil and gas coming from the ocean floor was simply too much for the equipment. Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post explains:
[T]he violent surge of oil and gas up the well — caused the drillpipe to buckle and move slightly off center. That fouled the operation of the blind shear rams, the blades designed to close on the drillpipe and shut in the well.
Wow. Simple as that. The piece of machinery that the oil industry has represented as the fail-safe, foolproof backup system when all else fails, is pretty fallible.
“Blowout preventer is a misnomer,” said an engineer who assisted in the probe and who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the investigation. “People have been thinking of this as a fail-safe device, and it’s more of an operating device.”
Said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.):
This report calls into question whether oil industry claims about the effectiveness of blowout preventers are just a bunch of hot air.
Meanwhile, this week, the Obama administration granted a fourth permit for deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf.
In 2009, a review of the safety of the Fukushima Daiichai nuclear plant was conducted. According to David Nakamura and Chico Harlan of The Washington Post, one official involved with Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which had been tasked to study the integrity and safety precautions in place at 19 facilities was “rebuffed” by a Tepco official when he suggested the facility might not withstand a tsunami. Tepco’s response was all too typically corporate. After all, acknowledging this risk might have meant spending extra money to build a higher wall.
Now, Japan is looking at clean-up costs of more than $300 billion dollars.
Had the panel paid closer attention to one of its members, the tragedy might have been prevented.
Nakumara and Harlan go on to report:
‘The diesels were in a very low area,” said Ken Brockman, former director of nuclear installation safety at the U.N.-backed International Atomic Energy Agency. ‘That would make them very susceptible to a tsunami or even an internal flooding event.”
The U.S. has 104 nuclear plants. Twenty-three models of the same older version GE nuclear facility models are in operation in the U.S., including along coastlines.
Many contend that more should be done to protect us from this sort of tragedy happening here. But who will do it? Do we trust corporations to do the right thing? Or will they do as they often do, and do the cheaper thing?
Rather than wait and see, we should halt our expansion of nuclear power, stop relicensing aging reactors and turn to sources of energy — such as wind and solar — that don’t threaten annihilation if things go awry.