This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are livid with BP in the wake of the massive, never-ending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—and Barack Obama says they ought to be. But there’s one aspect of the BP story that most of those angry residents of the Gulf states aren’t aware of. And the president hasn’t had a thing to say about it.
Even as the tar balls hit Gulf beaches, their tax dollars are subsidizing BP and so far, President Obama has not shown the slightest indication that he plans to stop their flow into BP coffers, despite the recent call of Public Citizen, a watchdog group, to end the nation’s business dealings with company. In fact, the Department of Defense, which has a longstanding, multibillion-dollar business relationship with BP, tells this author that it has no plans to sever current business ties or curtail future contracts with the oil giant.
In recent weeks, against a news backdrop of oil-soaked pelicans, President Obama has been talking tough. "We’ve ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they deliver," he announced on June 1. Days later, he rebuked the oil giant for considering plans to pay out large dividends to shareholders and for spending tens of millions of dollars on an advertising campaign to repair the company’s tarnished image.
"My understanding is that BP had contracted for $50 million worth of TV advertising to manage their image in the course of this disaster," the president said. "Now, I don’t have a problem with BP fulfilling its legal obligations. What I don’t want to hear is that they’re spending that kind of money on shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, [but] they’re nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time."
As part of his ongoing attempt to deal with flak from critics who claim that his reaction to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has been far too measured and that his administration has mishandled its response to the disaster, Obama told NBC Today show host Matt Lauer: "I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."