In American politics it is a fact of life that members of both parties are recipients of campaign contributions from special interest groups and lobbyists, but it is unfortunate that politicians feel beholden to repay their donors with policy decisions and votes that are not always in the best interest of America or its citizens. With the country’s economy making progress at a slower than desired pace, Republicans are making drastic spending cuts to crucial programs and refusing to find new sources of revenue necessary to keep the government running and pay down the debt. The Republicans though, belie their concern over the debt or spending by continuing to give precious funds to the oil industry in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives for exploration and drilling.
In the Senate this week Republicans blocked efforts by Democrats to end subsidies to oil companies with 45 Republicans and 3 Democrats voting to continue giving subsidies in the form of tax incentives to the five largest oil companies. Democrats were eager to repeal the subsidies to save $21 billion over the next ten years and rightly claimed that subsidies were unnecessary given the high price of gas and record profits posted by the 5 largest companies. Even if the Senate had voted to end the subsidies, there is a constitutionality issue because of a rule that states revenue increasing measures must come from the House of Representatives but the vote was significant nonetheless.
As usual, Republicans claimed the move was a political ploy instead of an effort to save taxpayer dollars to pay the down the deficit or fund programs for Americans. It is relatively certain that Democrats are pleased that Republicans are on record as giving advantages to the oil industry instead of the American people. The Republicans are so indebted to the oil industry that they resorted to their standard talking points that repealing the subsidies would unfairly single out oil companies and hamper their ability to hire workers as well as drive up America’s dependence on foreign oil. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said America should “be giving every possible break to companies that hire in America.” Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) claimed the bill was a Democratic effort to bring in more revenue and not pay down the deficit. “Let’s be clear about what’s going on here: Democrats want to raise taxes to pay for more government spending,” he said. Obviously, Republicans want to increase the already record oil industry profits to guarantee more campaign contributions for Republicans.
In a report from the Center for Responsive Politics, Republican members of the House and Senate received millions of dollars in donations from the oil and gas industry, and in turn rewarded oil companies with billions of taxpayer dollars. It is a good investment for the oil industry and Republican legislators, but a terrible deal for taxpayers who pay for subsidies with their hard earned tax dollars. In fact, six Republican Senators alone received twice as much in career oil industry contributions as the 48 Democrats and two independents who voted in favor of repealing the subsidies. The losers in the equation are taxpayers whose tax dollars fund the subsidies plus the exorbitant prices at the pump they have to pay with no end in sight. There is an obscene attitude of entitlement within the oil industry that comes from buying influence from legislators, and now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is exerting pressure on Senators to follow the oil industry’s orders.
In a letter to Senators, the Chamber’s chief lobbyist lashed out at Democrats for attempting to roll back taxpayer subsidies for the five biggest oil companies. R. Bruce Josten called repeal efforts “punitive taxation” that would jeopardize U.S. jobs and “increase energy costs.” Josten said that deficit reduction is laudable and that $21 billion in subsidies could be used to reduce the federal deficit, but taking money from the oil industry is unfair to the richest corporations on Earth. Josten dictated to Senators that the Chamber wants the government to tackle the deficit through spending cuts at the expense of working families, the poor, and the elderly. The Chamber also claims repealing subsidies is bad tax and energy policy and the $21 billion in savings is not an antidote for the poison of the federal deficit.
The Chamber’s contention that repealing the subsidies will hurt jobs is contrary to the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist who said that cutting subsidies will not hurt jobs, and would in fact, create jobs. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Services and the Joint Economic Committee both said the bill to repeal the subsidies will not affect fuel prices. The Chamber is consistent in their position that the wealthiest nation in the world should increase economic inequality and suffering by cutting services for poor and working-class Americans while rewarding and cutting taxes for corporations and wealthiest 2% of Americans. The Chamber of Commerce’s position and agenda is suspiciously identical to the Republican Party’s standard of tax breaks for wealthy industrialists at the expense of low-income minorities, working-class Americans, and the Federal government itself.
When Americans go to the polls, they cast ballots for candidates they feel will best represent their interests in passing legislation and running the government. However, voting for Republicans is voting for candidates that look out for the interests of the oil industry and not the American people. One would think by now it is evident Republicans owe their loyalty to the oil industry and not their constituents or the Federal government. Republicans do not even conceal their loyalties anymore and it was painfully evident during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year when Republicans apologized to BP for President Obama’s demand that the oil giant pay for the damage the spill caused.
The Republicans in Congress are despicable for selling votes to the oil industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and voters should be irate their tax dollars are being given to the wealthiest corporations on Earth. The audacity of the oil companies’ CEOs to sit in front of Congress and demand subsidies when they are reaping obscene profits is beyond comprehension. For the Chamber of Commerce to write a letter to members of the Senate demanding they keep subsidies in place and reduce the deficit through spending cuts on families and the poor speaks volumes about the level of corruption and malfeasance on the part of the Republican Party.
The oil industry and the Chamber of Commerce are emboldened by conservatives who fabricate lies about oil subsidies creating jobs and keeping the price of gasoline low and it appears they have no intention of changing their tactics. Americans do not have the funds to buy Senators or Representatives in Congress, but they have a more powerful asset in the right to vote even though that right is being chipped away each day in Republican controlled state legislatures. Hopefully, Democrats are keeping notes and records on campaign contributions Republicans receive from the oil industry to show the voters in the next election. Americans do not need records or notes to know that gas prices are at record levels or that their tax dollars are going to the oil industry while services are being slashed. The only problem is that Americans are becoming used to Republicans giving their tax dollars to the oil industry and accept it as a fact of life because at this juncture, it is one of the only consistencies apparent in the Republican Party besides lying, fear-mongering, and obeying the interest with the biggest checkbook.