Thursday, April 3, 2008

Big Oil and Slick Politicians

American oil companies made no effort to hide the fact that they made over $123 Billion in net (1) profit this last year. What a surprise.

These obscenely high profits, though, pale in the light that congress has bestowed on these robber-barons close to $18 Billion in tax breaks. You see, as the oil companies will explain it, if they don’t have the tax “incentives” how can they afford to reinvest in developing more sources of energy, or alternative energies for that matter?

Uh... well how about using SOME of the Goddam $123 Billion profit!?! Hey, Mr. CEO, remember from your freshman year Business 101 class; “profit” is the money you made AFTER your expenses... you know, the cash you get to take home to your wife.

Oh wait… using “profit” to pay for your private helicopter, the vacation house in Bimini and the diamond broach for your mistress doesn’t leave you much discretionary income left over to, say, lower your prices a bit or reinvest in your company. For that, you need ME, and the rest of working-schmuck America, to chip in and help you out. You need ME to pay more taxes so YOU don't have to. Right!

To its credit, Congress hauled the oil executives in front of hearings to have them explain this orgy of profit obscenity. Or was this action perhaps more of a dog-and-pony show for public consumption than any truly substantive effort to curb yet another display of corporate excess at consumer expense.

These congressional hearings brought to mind a memory from my childhood. My father was a Public Utility Commission staffer for the State of California. One time he took me to work with him on a day when they were having a trial. In this case, the State was trying to get the Southern Pacific railroad to install safety gates at a dangerous railroad crossing. I watched as the attorneys for Southern Pacific grilled my dad on the witness stand. The attorneys were very aggressive, forcing my dad to defend his position and attacking every iota of his testimony. I
worried, “These guys must really hate my dad!”

The judge interrupted the proceedings - the trial would continue after lunch break. As everyone packed their briefcases getting ready to head out, the same attorney who had been grilling my dad walked over, put his hand on my dad’s shoulder and amicably asked, “Well, Clyde, where do we want to go for lunch today?” I sat speechless as I watched my father and his adversaries laugh and talk like weekend buddies over lunch.

So I can picture, at the end of the congressional hearings about oil company profits, when the cameras ware switched off and the reporters leave, the oil company CEOs walking over to their supposed public inquisitors and asking, “Well, Senator, where would you like to go for lunch?”

So why are oil companies completely and totally unconcerned about disclosing their unrestrained bleeding of the American public? Because there is nothing anyone can, or will, do about it... and they know it!


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