For the past month, Republicans have preached to the American people that the country is broke and that without Draconian spending cuts to social programs, the deficit will continue to grow. The Republicans have defied business logic and made cuts while refusing to consider raising revenue through tax increases on corporations and the wealthy. John Boehner and company say that a typical American family would follow suit in their personal budgets and cut back to make ends meet. With gas prices at $4.399 per gallon nationally, Americans are cutting back on travel and when possible, are holding down more than one job to augment the family budget.
The country is certainly cash-strapped, but Republicans are making sure the oil industry is flush with taxpayer money. Yesterday, it was revealed that the oil industry’s profits for 2010 were $60.9 billion for the top three oil companies. The most profitable company in the 2010 Fortune 500 list, Exxon Mobil, recorded profits of $30 billion that was helped by record gas prices, oil subsidies from taxpayers, and tax breaks for exploration and drilling. If America is broke like Republicans claim and they have to cut entitlement programs for the poor, why aren’t they cutting oil industry entitlements?
Apparently, the record profits are not sufficiently obscene for Republicans because they voted to extend taxpayer-funded oil subsidies as recompense for campaign contributions from the oil industry. There is also a small matter of royalty payments for oil captured off the outer continental shelf. When an oil company explores and drills for oil on federal land, after they recoup their expenses they are supposed to pay royalties on drilling leases. As it stands now, oil companies are not paying royalties on oil from federal land regardless the record profits they make.
In a House oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting in early March, Representative Dennis Kucinich informed the committee that, “Due to a flaw in the 1995 Outer Continental Shelf Deep Water Royalty Relief Act, numerous oil companies are now drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in federal lands and paying no royalties to the federal government.” Republicans have resisted attempts to correct the flaw that would force the oil industry to pay the royalties the same way they resist ending subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry. According to a report (pg. 200) from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Special lower royalty rates granted on leases issued in the deep water areas of the Gulf of Mexico from 1996-2000 could result in $21 billion to $53 billion in lost revenue to the federal government.” During the hearing chaired by Rep. Daryl Issa (R-CA), the Republicans feigned surprise at the revelation, but it turns out they voted against reworking the leases so the oil industry could avoid paying royalties indefinitely.
It is bad enough that Republicans are giving subsidies to the oil industry with money taken from programs for the poor like the WIC (Women, Infants, & Children) program to assist with health and nutrition needs, but the oil lobby’s puppets in the GOP are giving huge tax breaks to companies like Exxon Mobil. The company’s CEO collected $21.5 million for gouging the government and the American people, and because of loopholes created by the industry’s lobbyists, Exxon Mobil paid no income taxes for their record profits and in fact, received a $156 million rebate from taxpayers. Republicans facilitate the oil industry to rape taxpayers at the pump, with subsidies, no royalty payments, and no income taxes; and they have no intention of changing anytime soon.
There are some Republican lawmakers who dispute the assertion that the oil industry receives subsidies or tax breaks and agree with oil industry executives who complain that eliminating subsidies is tantamount to a tax increase. Exxon’s vice president, Ken Cohen, complained that by eliminating subsidies, what President Obama really wants is, “to increase our taxes by taking away long-standing deductions for our industry.”
Tim Pawlenty, a presidential hopeful said eliminating subsidies is “ludicrous and a tax increase” and that “the worst thing we could do is raise the cost burden on costs on energy and oil…What he’s proposing is a tax increase on energy at a time when the gas is $4 a gallon. It’s preposterous.” It is not preposterous and eliminating subsidies will not end our dependence on foreign oil, eliminate jobs, or impact the price of gasoline at the pump. Pawlenty is echoing scare tactics used by oil lobbyists to perpetuate the billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks hard-working Americans are giving to the oil industry.
Pawlenty typifies Republicans’ largesse with taxpayer money for the most profitable corporations in the world who, like Exxon, pay little or nothing in income taxes. From the lead-up to the 2010 midterm elections to the present day, congressional Republicans led by House Speaker John Boehner said they were doing the work of the American people. It is reasonable to assume that the majority of Americans do not approve of Republicans giving taxpayer dollars to the oil industry. However, Americans must remember that Republicans work for the oil industry and protect their interests at all costs. When President Obama said he would hold BP responsible for the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Republicans apologized to BP and criticized the president for treating the oil giant unfairly.
The Republicans in Congress must cease giving the oil industry taxpayer money and start working for the American people. If America is broke like Republicans claim, it is only because they take what little revenue the government collects and give it to the oil industry. Instead of only cutting spending, Republicans should follow good business practice and increase revenue by making oil companies pay royalties and income taxes. As it stands now, Republicans give Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars directly to companies like Exxon and BP, and to pay for the oil industry entitlements they cut services.
Congressional Republicans told their constituents they want to end oil subsidies, but voted unanimously to continue the unfair entitlements. Republicans disparage spending on the American people because they claim the deficit is too high but they will not increase revenue. The oil industry is flush with taxpayer money that is better suited making infrastructure improvements that creates jobs, or providing health services and nutritional assistance to low-income families. If Republicans have their way, it won’t be long until every American is forced to sign their paychecks over to big oil and the government will transfer its assets to companies like Exxon and BP. The Republicans have almost achieved that goal.