Workers Died to Protect 1.3% of BP’s Profits

After years of deliberate neglect, tens of millions of $$$ in fines, $$$millions more in settlements, hundreds of $$$millions in environmental damage, and dozens of totally unnecessary deaths, BP finally decided to clean up its act because it was getting universally bad press. Its name was mud. The fines, the death, the damage – none of that bothered them until people refused to shut up about it.

Last month, the BP Board fired Lord John Browne, the man whose Jack Welch-like stinginess (they don’t normally worship the bottom line in Europe with quite the same religious fervor as the corporatocracy’s executives do here, sacrificing the environment, their employee’s health and safety, and the safety of the communities in which they’re located to squeeze a few more pennies out of their operating budgets) was directly responsible for oil spills in Alaska and deadly explosions in Bhopal and Texas City, among many other disasters.

A few months before that, they ordered a massive maintenance program to repair or replace all the broken-down equipment, institute safety training programs for their employees, and purchase the safety equpment Browne had forced his plant managers to cut out of their budgets. As a result, their fourth-quarter earnings dropped 22% to a measely $$$2.9BIL$$$.

Poor babies.

Declining oil prices and mounting safety spending sent BP PLC’s fourth-quarter profit down 22 percent to a two-year low, the oil company said Tuesday.

Following a series of high-profile mishaps including a deadly refinery blast in Texas and an oil spill in Alaska, BP also slashed its growth targets and raised its capital expenditure forecast for this year.

BP said adjusted net profit dropped to $2.88 billion, from $3.69 billion a year ago. Adjusted net profit measures earnings before extraordinary items and excluding changes in the value of inventories.

Revenue for the fourth quarter, including asset disposals, fell 1.6 percent to $62.8 billion.

Over the full year, adjusted net profit fell 1.3 percent to $22 billion, from $22.3 billion in 2005. Revenue rose 11.7 percent to $274.3 billion, from $245.5 billion.

(emphasis added)

Note, please, that the net effect of their replacement program on the entire year’s profit picture was a whopping 1.3% – $$$300Mil out of $$$22BILLION$$$.

That’s why people died, that $300Mil. That’s why BP wreaked ecological havoc. That’s why workers went without safety equipment, why the plant in Texas City exploded and killed 15 workers.

For a 1.3% rise in their profits. That’s all it was worth to them. 1.3% of their revenue. Less, actually, if they’d spent it – as they should have – keeping the equipment maintained to begin with, which would have spread the cost out over several years.

I have to admit that despite the fact that I expected the money they’d saved by killing people wouldn’t amount to a helluva lot, I was shocked into a real rage when I saw the actual number and realized just how little it was compared to the $$$billions$$$ they’ve been raking in in profits the past few years, along with every other oil company. I had a momentary urge to throw my monitor through the window.

It’s hard to find words strong enough to convey the sheer evil of a system that values $$$ so highly it’s prepared to destroy the planet and all the people who live on it, including itself, for the sake of piling up more and more of what my Native American friends would call “frogskins”. Yet that evil spawned and controls the culture we live in.

Apologists for the corporatocracy always portray their market decisions in stark terms: excessive regulation will bankrupt companies, acting in a socially-conscious manner will bankrupt companies, raising the minimum wage will bankrupt companies, paying employees a living wage will bankrupt companies, providing health insurance will bankrupt companies, providing universal health insurance will bankrupt the country. As if they were all living on the very edge of destruction and a 1.3% loss in their profit margin would mean disaster, would make the difference between staying alive and going down in flames.

Then you see the actual numbers and they turn out to be…trivial. A drop in a 40-gallon bucket.

Why are we willing to accept this horrendous state of affairs? It’s madness.

We could provide health care for everyone in the US for 1/1000th of what we’re cheerfully spending in Iraq, yet we do not demand it even though we have repeatedly said we want it. We could force companies to follow reasonable health and safety rules and provide the proper equipment to workers and maintain their plants and equipment to prevent all this damage, all these lost lives, for 1/10,000th of what we spend every day in Iraq – or less – merely by enforcing the law, but we don’t.

Why don’t we? Why are we content to sit back and watch vacantly while the lust for loot poisons our atmosphere and melts the polar ice caps? Our very existence and the existence of the planet will live on is endangered by the oligarchs’ blind grab for every penny they can get their hands on and yet we do nothing.

NOTHING.

I don’t get it.

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