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Congress fills Big Oil's tax-break trough, again

March 30, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • The U.S. average for regular gasoline climbed to $3.897 a gallon, up 5.5 cents since last week, according to Monday's AAA Fuel Gauge Report. In California, the average fell 1.9 cents to $4.331 a gallon.
The U.S. average for regular gasoline climbed to $3.897 a gallon, up 5.5… (Wilfredo Lee / Associated…)

Upset about high gasoline prices? So are the folks in Congress -- they just have a different way of showing it.

As Time staff writers Lisa Mascaro and Christi Parsons reported Thursday: “The Senate blocked an effort to end billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil industry, brushing aside President Obama's argument that the five big oil companies were doing ‘just fine’ while consumers were struggling with painfully high gasoline prices.”

Of course, on Capitol Hill, "consumers" are those people who need to be pandered to whenever an election rolls around. Big oil companies, on the other hand, are "providers" -- of lots of campaign contributions.

So I guess that’s how we got to this “free market,” the one in which oil companies are free to charge whatever they want for gasoline, Congress is free to keep giving tax breaks to an industry making huge profits, and you and I are free to walk, or bike, or scrimp on other things so we can put 87-octane into old Bessie.

Strange, isn't it: The Republicans stood firm Thursday against ending tax breaks for rich oil companies. But when it came to extending the payroll tax break for average Americans a few months ago, they wanted that paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Didn't hear that argument raised Thursday, did you?

Of course, if Mitt Romney, he of the real-world experience -- as in (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I know how business works because I worked at a venture capital firm that bought companies and laid off most of the workers” -- becomes president, we can expect even more unleashing of this “free market.”

For example, we’ll be free to search for healthcare we can’t afford. And free to work longer and longer hours at companies where the workers are squeezed while the CEOs grow fat. Not that we’d be able to enjoy any free time anyway, once our public lands have been “freed up” for exploitation by mining and other interests.

And finally, our Republican friends will start taking their axes to Medicare and Social Security.

That way, as we get older, we’ll be free -- to die, and reduce the surplus population.

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