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Obama does a Putin with BP!
...and arm-twists BP with open threats – is this ethical, if not illegal?

In a sequence of events reminding one more of the mafiosi-like Putin administration, Obama and his White House staff – with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel leading from the front – first hounded BP officials (read a detailed story on BP in our strategy section in this issue), then threatened them, and finally arm-twisted them to set up an escrow account of $20 billion for providing relief to the claims arising out of the BP oil spill.

There are many reasons why this particular case of money jostled out by Obama from BP is unethical and even illegal – despite the general public viewpoint – and one believes done purely for playing to the galleries for benefit at the hustings. Firstly, in the capitalist setup that the United States operates in, it is the insurance company (Jupiter Insurance Inc. in this case) that covers the spill that needs to be steamrolled by Obama and not BP. It doesn’t matter that Jupiter Insurance is more or less owned by BP; equity ownership always comes with zero additional liability – that is, BP cannot be legally asked to pay a penny more than its investment in Jupiter Insurance.

Secondly, if 11 people died in the BP spill, the 440,000 who die every year in the US due to tobacco use and the $200 billion this industry costs US every year are bigger reasons why Obama and Emanuel should be threatening the powerful cigarette manufacturers to pay much more than the total of $206 billion they have to pay over 25 years under the Master Settlement Agreement they brilliantly signed with 46 US states in 1998, when the Democrats were in power.

Is Obama doing that? Not at all. While the BP CEO Tony Hayward was chastised openly by Rahm Emanuel for attending a yacht race and publicly humiliated by Obama (who said his meetings with affected parties have educated him on “whose ass to kick”; and that he would have kicked out Hayward), Obama himself was playing golf at Andrews Air Base. And Putin? He was watching with amusement the Moscow court proceedings against oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.


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