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The Corporate Stranglehold: How BP Will Make out Like Bandits from Its Massive, Still Gushing Oil Disaster

The existing $75 million cap on damages for offshore drilling companies is a bailout every bit as disgusting as those recently bestowed upon Wall Street.

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In practice, we need much more than a system that simply weighs costs and revenues—disasters like the Gulf oil spill and the Wall Street crash create ecological and human trauma that no accountant can aggregate. The real pain of being unemployed for years on end is not merely financial, it's the psychological toll of being unwanted and useless. Similarly, destroying an ocean is just bad in and of itself, regardless of how much it costs. Companies that can kill eight million jobs (Wall Street) or devastate an entire coastline (BP) should be prevented from doing so with strong regulations and committed, valued regulators.

An economy built around bailouts like these cannot function. It's a recipe for high long-term unemployment, sluggish growth, environmental degradation and social unrest.

Zach Carter is an economics editor at AlterNet. He writes a weekly blog on the economy for the Media Consortium and his work has appeared in the Nation, Mother Jones, the American Prospect and Salon.