On Oil Drilling, Subsidies & Congress


photo: Michelle Kinsey Burns/Creative Commons

Politicians like to go on TV and say that our nation is broke. But that's not why America is in trouble. Our real problem? Our system of government is broken.

Just ask the working class who has watched government turn its back on them. People think the deck is stacked against them, that government works in favor of the corporate CEOs and lobbyists who buy access and influence.

They're right. Look at the debates that have taken place on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. At a time when Americans are spending more and more of their hard-earned money on gas--and oil companies are making incredible profits--members of both houses of Congress voted to keep giving these corporations billions of dollars in tax breaks.

Currently, the "big five" oil companies--Exxon, Chevron, ConcocoPhillips, BP and Shell--receive $4 billion in subsidies every year. These companies made $32 billion in profit during the first three months of the year, And, although 74% of Americans want to eliminate these handouts--they remain.

The House leadership recently proposed a budget in which two-thirds of the cuts would come from programs that serve low-income Americans, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Pell Grant Program, which currently helps 9 million low-income students go to college, faces billions in cuts.

Affordable housing programs, including one that helps people with disabilities keep a roof over their heads, may lose nearly $6 billion. One plan would force as many as 44 million poor and disabled Americans to lose Medicaid over the next decade. But in the House and the Senate, elected officials voted to keep handing billions to three of the four largest companies in America.

So what's their agenda?

If our leaders' true goal was to lower the deficit, then they would have eliminated oil subsidies and used that tax revenue to cut our debt.

If their goal was to create jobs, then why has Rep. Paul Ryan proposed cutting subsidies for clean technology--every one million dollars of investment creates 16 jobs in clean energy, and just 5 in fossil fuels.

And, members of Congress will tell you that the effort to expand offshore drilling is about lowering gas prices--it's not. The impact on gas prices wouldn't happen until 2030, and even then it would be a matter of just three cents per gallon.

The common thread between all these actions: Oil companies benefit. A lot. People don't.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, already "persons" under the law, had a right to free speech that translates into their being able to pour millions into elections. Dollars have become more important than votes.

For too long, many politicians have put corporations before their constituents. It's time for Americans--real Americans, not Americans, Inc--to come first.

Ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I don't care what the law says. ExxonMobil is not a person.

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Tags: Congress | Oil | United States