Economy & Budget

Big Oil gets its payday

If you’re a Big Oil executive, you’re having a pretty good day today.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted down a measure to begin debate
on legislation to end the Big Oil welfare tax — a tax on average
Americans that covers huge subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

The nearly party-line vote achieved what Big Oil wants most. There will
be no discussion about how some of the most profitable companies in the
world want to keep their handout for billions of taxpayer dollars that
subsidize their business. Even as gas prices soar to near-record levels
and after the five largest U.S. oil companies reported over $30 billion
in profits in the first quarter of this year, Big Oil’s pawns in
Congress are protecting their corporate welfare funds.

Interestingly, according to the campaign watchdog group Public Campaign Action Fund, House members who voted to preserve Big Oil’s corporate welfare “received five times more in campaign contributions, on average, from the oil and gas industry in the 2010 election cycle than those who voted to proceed” with the motion to end the Big Oil welfare tax.

According to their data, released today, those voting to block debate on oil subsidies received $36,066, on average, in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. Those who voted to begin debate received, on average, $7,192 in campaign contributions from the industry. Overall, members who voted to continue the subsidies received more than $8.7 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests in 2010, while those opposed raised just $1.2 million. And 16 of the 18 U.S. House members who received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the industry in 2010 voted to block debate.

Imagine that.

What’s interesting about this is that somehow, even though they control the floor, House Republicans have walked smack into taking terrible votes that are going to haunt them for the next 18 months. After the November elections many prognosticators wondered if the House Republicans would make the same mistakes as in 1994, when they vastly overreached by pushing their social and special-interests agenda. They vowed not to do it.

Yet here we are. They’ve voted to end Medicare as we know it, privatize Medicaid, which provides health services to the disabled, attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and now they’re voting to preserve taxpayer-funded subsidies to the companies that are charging us all $4 for a gallon of gas. Meanwhile, they’ve offered no plan and had zero votes on anything designed to spark the economy or create jobs — a broken campaign promise they’ll regret.

Yep, they’ve overreached. Keeping oil companies rich while they force the rest of us into the poorhouse is going to be a tough message to sell in 2012.


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