published Thursday, May 19th, 2011

GOP in oil industry’s pocket

Giving needless tax breaks to oil companies has never made much sense. It’s been decades since oil companies had be to be induced to drill for domestic oil. And with $4-a-gallon gasoline prices around the country and oil companies awash in obscene profits in recent years — the Big Five earned a breathtaking $35 billion in net profits in the first three months of this year alone — it’s clearly time to terminate the industry’s wasteful tax breaks.

The two tax breaks that Democrats in the Senate sought to end Tuesday would have returned just over $2 billion a year to the Treasury, or $21 billion over 10 years, without prompting any increase in gasoline prices, an analysis by the bipartisan Congressional Research Service showed. Yet Senate Republicans, bought by Big Oil’s campaign contributions and political lobbyists, used a filibuster to kill Democrats’ attempt to get a straight-up majority vote to end Big Oil’s tax breaks.

With the help of three energy-state Democrats, Republicans produced 48 votes against the Democratic proposal. That was easily enough to keep the 52-member majority vote eight votes shy of the 60 needed to invoke cloture and call for a simple majority vote. Just two Republicans voted with the Democrats on that pivotal vote, which allowed the minority filibuster to prevail.

Democrats should bring the issue back, as some promised, when debate begins on raising the national debt ceiling. Republicans who want to slash the public’s vital safety net programs should be forced to give up some of the tax breaks they protect for big corporations.

Indeed, the $2 billion a year that would result from ending a few of Big Oil’s tax breaks is barely a drop in the proverbial oil profit bucket. Yet it clearly could help reduce the federal deficit, or offset the harmful cuts that Republicans are inflicting on every vital safety net program under the sun.

But to succeed in ultimately ending the wasteful tax breaks, Democrats will have to show why Republicans are so eager to defend the oil companies’ tax break. That shouldn’t be hard.

Consider the amount that oil and energy companies have given to Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, for example. Corker has collected $413,650 from the energy industry since 1999 — the bulk of that since he became a senator in 2006. In the same period, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Alexander has collected $370,500 from energy companies, mainly oil companies.

It’s not hard to see how that’s happened. Oil and gas companies, for example, spent $39.5 million lobbying Congress and handing out campaign contributions in just the first quarter of this year alone.

An analysis by the public-interest advocacy groups Oil Change International and the Public Campaign Action Fund drilled down a bit further in the Center for Responsive Politics’ data to show the effect of the money-for-votes business. It found that the senators who voted Tuesday to keep the oil industry’s tax breaks had received an average of $370,664 from the oil and gas industries’ PACs and employees. That’s five times the average of $72,145 received by the senators who were willing to close Big Oil’s tax breaks.

“Giving profitable, price-hiking Big Oil companies billions in taxpayer subsidies is plain wrong,” said David Donnelly, national campaign director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “The Senators who voted to prevent consideration of this bill have made it clear: They stand with their big oil donors over their constituents struggling to fill their tank.”

In fact, the industry’s tax breaks are indefensible. Executives of the oil companies themselves admitted to Congress in hearings in 2005 that they no longer needed the tax deductions. That was when crude oil, which accounts for two-thirds of the cost of gasoline, was selling for around $60 a barrel. With the current price of crude hovering around $100, the oil companies’ profits — a percentage which rises along with the price of crude — have surged and are now far higher.

With federal debt high, corporate tax breaks rampant and ordinary Americans losing ground on inflation-adjusted wages over the past decade, there’s ample reason to end unreasonable tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations and the ultra-rich. If Republicans really cared about ordinary Americans and working families, they would agree with that.

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Leaf said...

We desparately need campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court was terribly wrong in the Citizens United case. All political donations should be tied to individuals and should not go over a set amount - say $5000 per year - and should only go directly to a candidate's campaign fund. No PACS. The candidate himself should only be allowed to contribute $5000 per year as well.

If it takes an amendment to the Constitution to keep the Roberts court from screwing it up it would be worth it. I believe political corruption is one of the biggest threats to our democracy. Our founding fathers would roll over in their graves if they knew what was going on these days.

May 20, 2011 at 1:36 p.m.
chet123 said...

Libertarian....cant compare lady bug...against a bull elephant....i often hear republican speaking of union like they are foreign people....union are the backbone of american....not some fat cat(trillions of dollars)...and if you talking about oil you are mostly talking about foreign investor....just give the country away libertarian,,,,as the republican did with "nafta" ..outsourcing american job(ross perot was right..giant sucking sound) are own by big oil...and large speak of citizen united and you think large corporation care about you....they are using the republican party to pass laws in their favor(they appoint Judges in favor of Big Oil and Big Corporation)....the republican party are you think corporate cares about pro-life,christianity, or pro-business(unless it benefit them)

We cry hate speech...because you cant talk on political issue without injecting race....the voter hear rush limbaugh, glen beck,bill o'reilly,laura ingram,Newt Gingrich, your own comment along with thousands of media hate groups....spending billions of dollars on propanganda ...trying to create a boogey man as bill o'reilly attemped to do with common(he got blistered by Jon Stewart and looked like a fool)..and donald trump attack the president in a way that never before have been seen..never a sitting president been object to such humiliation(birth certificate..reagan didnt have his original birth certificate) but came out like a shining star while trump looked like a fool. Yes...republicans are own by the rich and greedy.....trying to destroy "medicare"...thank GOD for the government.....

May 20, 2011 at 6:18 p.m.
chet123 said...

republican are subject to Quid Pro Quo(you stratch my back and i will scratch yours)they owe rich and greedy....they are not an independent or autonomy party and they surely dont represent the middle class...Republican may give the middle class a little red meat(so call call pro-business) and the rupublican gives the poor class in south a boogeyman( blacks people, brown people and non-christians).These are political footballs and greedy main intent is power...the republicans middle-class or upper middle class that think they are protected by rich and greedy are in for a suprise when the BIG CORPORATE CONGLOMERATE swallow up their small business(i.e.wal-mart..and mom and pop hardward store)it sad to see republican party stoop so low to be used as pawms...they use to be the minority party(in the 60's and 70's but they were will regain the house in 2012...thanks GOD for a Democracy government and not an Oligarchy Government...the Democract government hater is Ronald Reagan legancy...that why even his children disagreed with him...he was the rich and greedy hero

May 20, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.
fairmon said...


Your best post to date. Expresses your views without all the lol and attacks on others posting. You may be right on the republicans being pawns and selling out. I think both parties are equally compromised by different sources. Goldman Sachs a Wall Street big timer is one of the bigger contributors to democrats along with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, big banks and several unions. Their votes and legislation reflect the influence of those sources just as republican sources reflect their sources. Neither in the best interest of the common working American.

The courts decision not to curtail or control contributions by special interest or corporations was a crippling blow to the possibility of meaningful reform of political contributions by big money.

Neither party is proposing anything that would create long lasting meaningful employment for American workers. Both keep supporting actions that could be detrimental to jobs therefore increasing the number that will have to depend on the government.

May 21, 2011 at 5:41 a.m.
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