June 14, 2010

American Mythology: The Good Corporate Citizen

"Seventy percent of Americans can't find their butt with a map and flashlight."

That's from a caller on one of my favorite radio talk shows. I heard it tonight on the way home. Not more than an hour before, I'd had a conversation with an engineer at work about the Gulf oil catastrophe. He couldn't understand why BP had not tried a particular plugging device that is supposed to be highly effective. "Maybe it costs too much," I said. "I'm sure they don't care about cost," he responded (with a touch of condescension).

I thought he was implying that the cost of the damn device is nothing when compared to the liability and stock-market losses BP has to face. I was wrong. Another engineer carefully and politely explained to him that BP "thinks like a corporation" and makes decisions based on its own bottom line. It seems he meant that BP would, of course, put the benefit of human beings and the planet above the cost of a device that could stop the gushing oil.

Perhaps he, like Sarah Palin, believes Americans "should be able to trust the oil industry."

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