What’s also being tarred daily by the gushing oil is the very notion that government can accomplish anything.
What we\’re actually seeing is that government can make things worse.
Take, for example, the shortage of oil skimming ships in the Gulf. There\’s a whole flotilla of them on offer from a variety of European sources. They cannot, however, be used.
For there is this thing called the Jones Act. It started out, in the 20s (think that\’s right) as a way to support the US Merchant Marine. It is now simply a support for the US Seamen\’s unions.
What it says is that only US owned and crewed ships may operate in US coastal waters.
Thus those European owned and crewed ones may not: however much they might be needed, however much good they might do.
Of course, it is possible for the US Government to provide a waiver. Bush\’s lot managed it within two days of Katrina for example. Obama\’s lot has not: indeed, for political reasons probably cannot, given the way in which the Democratic Party relies upon union support.
It\’s not just that government finds it very difficult to achieve things: it\’s that it is often true that more can be achieved without what government already does.
It should also be said that Frank Rich\’s underlying argument is somewhat confused: government is crap at doing things so we should have more government.