June 2, 2011

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if $4 a gallon gasoline made us mad enough to pass a tax increase... on ourselves?

Fortunately Republicans in the United States Senate kept that from happening.

Senator Claire McCaskill was not too happy about the failure of her bill, which she was championing as an end to tax giveaways to Big Oil.

In typical political theater, McCaskill pointed the finger at the other party.

"There's a lot of talk about how to address our mounting national debt and high gas prices but when push came to shove, Republicans put Big Oil ahead of deficit reduction and people who are hurting," said McCaskill. "People are talking about the need for drastic measures but Republicans were unwilling to stand up to Big Oil to make a little progress. How are we going to tackle the bigger problems if Republicans couldn't find the courage to cut handouts for the most profitable companies in the history of the world? Oil companies aren't struggling. Missouri families are. I don't know how we can continue to take people seriously who say they want to address our deficit and didn't vote for this bill."

Okay Big Oil, has a big target on its back right now. So this issue garnered plenty of public support, not necessarily on its merits, but most likely as a spontaneous reflex to the last time you paid to fill up your car.

I'm not going to try and defend gas prices or the profit margins of oil companies. What I would like folks to consider, is McCaskill's motives.

She is on the record noting this action is an effort to reduce the deficit first and foremost, with a side dish of helping us Americans who are hurting financially.

Seems to me that we need to be more worried about Uncle Sam's impact on our pocketbook than that of ExxonMobil, BP, Shell Conoco and Chevron.

I can't help but be pessimistic when my Senator says she wants to help me by making oil companies pay more taxes. Call me crazy, but that's no help at all. As a matter of fact, I see myself as collateral damage in this fight. I question if she wants to help me, or if she simply wants to add more to the government coffers to further expand federal spending?

Big Brother wants more money from Big Oil. As we have already witnessed, Big Oil, is going to keep making big profits. So if they have to pay more to the government, that means I'm going to have to pay even more at the pump. So in essence, this looks like a basic tax increase for the consumer, passing our money through the pump right to Washington D.C.

I'm not Spock from Star Trek, but it seems like the logical way to decrease the deficit is for government to stop spending so much.

While I'm on the subject of logic, how does it make any sense to close these "tax loopholes" Claire was going after, for only the five largest oil companies? To me that reads as if it's okay for the smaller fish to keep taking advantage of the loopholes. If it's wrong for one shouldn't it be wrong for all?

And if we want to target tax revenue that is getting away from Big Brother, why stop with just Big Oil? According to Forbes, GE had one of the largest tax breaks in 2010, thanks in large part to government incentives that are pushing alternative green energy resources vs. oil.

McCaskill points out that the big 5 oil companies reported more than $32 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011

What she doesn't tell you, is that they also paid huge amounts in taxes. According to Forbes, the biggest oil companies paid billions of dollars in taxes, all facing tax rates of 40% or higher, well above the rates paid by other industries such as banking and insurance giants.

Those dirty oil companies have used the tax code to keep from paying $40 billion in taxes over the past decade according to the senator. That's a big number, but only a drop in the bucket when you consider the federal government spent nearly $3.5 TRILLION last year alone.

Start cutting the deficit by looking in the mirror.

The group Citizens Against Government Waste highlights this concept via the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) March 2011 report on duplicative or wasteful federal programs. CAGW notes "the report, titled Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, identifies 34 agencies, offices, and initiatives that provide similar or identical services to the same populations, along with 47 programs that are either wasteful or inefficient. It includes 18 nutrition and food assistance programs, 47 job retraining programs, and 80 economic development programs, along with $77 billion of waste at the Department of Defense and $125 billion in improper payments by government agencies, among many others."

We're going to need a lot more scapegoats than just Big Oil if we want to keep funding this kind of waste.

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