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Oceanic Proportions Of The New AIG Bailout

The oceans cover more than 360,000,000 square kilometers of the surface of the Earth. Wall Street doesn’t even cover one square kilometer. Guess which one is getting the bigger bailout.

That’s right. It’s Wall Street. Comparing even just the most recent bailout of just one firm, AIG, to the bailout that the oceans are getting, the difference is staggering.

wall street oceans bailout scaleAIG is getting 30 billion dollars from the U.S. government this week, in spite of having lost its previous bailout, 62 billion dollars, in just three months. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, on the other hand, is getting just 830 million dollars from the economic stimulus bill. That’s only 2.77 percent of the bailout for AIG. The oceans, through NOAA, are receiving only 2 dollars and thirty one cents of bailout per square kilometer. If we grant AIG the generous estimate of one square kilometer of space on Earth, then we’re giving AIG 30 billion dollars per square kilometer – in this week’s bailout alone.

You may wonder whether NOAA merits a bailout of the sort that AIG is receiving. The prevailing wisdom is that there’s no comparison between the two. AIG is a huge insurance company that, financial writers say, “is so big and sprawling, so intertwined with institutions around the globe, that its downfall could set off a vicious chain reaction.” The oceans of the Earth, on the other hand, are… well, what are they? Just water?

Are we really to believe that AIG is more big and sprawling, more intertwined with the institutions of human civilization than the oceans? NOAA has responsibility for researching and protecting the ecological integrity of the oceans. Why shouldn’t it receive a budget to match the size of its jurisdiction?

There’s an oceanic ecological crisis going on right now, and it’s every bit as threatening as the global economic crisis. In fact, it may be more urgent. After all, an insurance company like AIG can be recreated. Coral reefs, once they’re destroyed, may not return for millions of years, if they ever come back.

Coral reefs around the world are dying right now, by a combination of destructive fishing practices, pollution, ocean acidification and global warming. These same problems also threaten other marine ecosystems. The bounty of the oceans, from which vast human wealth is created, is on the verge of collapsing.

The ocean’s riches are not used to hire lobbyists to beg Congress for billions of dollars. Companies like AIG, on the other hand, have the ability to launch powerful lobbying campaigns even as they’re using government money to pay for their other operating expenses. So, AIG gets the big money, and organizations like NOAA, get a pittance.

Investing in protection and restoration of marine resources will pay off very well in the future. We can’t say the same for investing in AIG. There’s good reason to believe that the 30 billion dollars that the government threw at AIG this week is gone for good, without any lasting benefit for us here in the USA at all.

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