Comparing Man-Made Disasters: The BP Oil Spill and Obamacare

It is always a good idea to study ones mistakes so as to avoid repeating them. In that light, we will compare and contrast the two man-made disasters that will shape the legacy of the Obama Administration: BP’s Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare.


The focus of the reporting on these disasters has been on the failure of execution, but not until you consider the bigger picture, the failure of management, do you achieve any real understanding.

Root Cause

Macondo: An accident, based on failure of multiple redundant engineering systems and misinterpretation of wellbore diagnostic tests.
Obamacare: A deliberate act, based on application of failed economic theory and multiple misrepresentations of system design parameters.

Casualties, Direct and Indirect

Macondo: Eleven killed, dozens injured. Temporary regional economic disruption.
Obamacare: While it is too soon to measure lives and limbs lost due to rationing and suboptimal treatment, you can be sure that they are inevitable. Obamacare’s economic devastation will be severe, permanent and national in scope.

Direct Loss of Resources

Macondo: Up to 5 million barrels of oil wasted, with an economic value of $500 million. Small businesses compensated for economic losses. Thousands of temporary part-time jobs created during the cleanup phase.
Obamacare: $640 million spent to date on failed rollout. Economic losses to small business are a feature, not a bug. Millions of permanent part-time jobs created (cannabilizing full-time jobs) during the implementation phase.

Inappropriate Design Features

Macondo: BP’s Oil Spill Response Plan criticized for contingencies related to walruses and other species not native to the Gulf of Mexico.
Obamacare: Mandates universal coverage for pregnancy and childbirth, regardless of need.


Money Quotes


We made a few little mistakes early on. … [W]e’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused to their lives. There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I’d like my life back.” – BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

Hayward “wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements.”US Chief Executive Barack Obama

(Hayward’s departure was announced six weeks later.)

Obama: “The buck stops with me. You know, I’m the president. This is my team. If it’s not working, it’s my job to get it fixed.

On the millions of Americans who have been dropped from their health care plans:

Obama:I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”

Regarding the failed website launch:

Obama: “I wanted to go in and fix it myself, but I don’t write code.”



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