Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Government helping those who do not need help

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Our Congress is loath to help those who actually need help—the poor and powerless, who can offer little in the way of campaign contributions. The wealthy and the powerful—well, that’s another story: they have plenty to give members of Congress, so members of Congress make sure they get plenty. The NY Times editors take note of one such action by Senate Republicans:

President Obama and the Senate Democrats have again fallen short in their quest to eliminate billions of dollars in unnecessary tax breaks for an oil industry that is rolling in enormous profits. A big reason for that failure is that some of those profits are being continuously recycled to win the support of pliable legislators, underwrite misleading advertising campaigns and advance an energy policy defined solely by more oil and gas production.

Despite pleading by Mr. Obama, the Senate on Thursday could not produce the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill eliminating $2.5 billion a year of these subsidies. [This is an egregious error by the NY Times: it requires only 51 votes to pass a bill. It requires 60 votes to end a filibuster, which the GOP uses so frequently that many—like the uninformed writer of the editorial—come to believe that 60 votes are required to pass a bill. Not so: just to end a filibuster. James Fallows has been beating this drum for a long time. – LG] This is a minuscule amount for an industry whose top three companies in the United States alone earned more than $80 billion in profits last year. Nevertheless, in the days leading up to the vote, the American Petroleum Institute spent several million dollars on an ad campaigncalling the bill “another bad idea from Washington — higher taxes that could lead to higher prices.”

Studies by the Congressional Research Service, among others, say that ending these tax breaks would increase prices by a penny or two a gallon. Yet all but two Senate Republicans have been conditioned by years of industry largess to accept its propaganda. In the last year, the industry spent more than $146 million lobbying Congress. In Thursday’s vote, senators who voted to preserve the tax breaks received more than four times as much as those who voted against.

Money has always talked in Congress. Now industry allies are aiming at voters. The American Energy Alliance, a Washington-based group that does not disclose its financial sources, on Thursday began an ad campaign in eight states with competitive Congressional races.

Voters in Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado will hear a 30-second spot peddling the industry’s misleading arguments against the Obama administration’s energy policies — including the fiction that those policies have led to higher gas prices: “Since Obama became president,” it says in part, “gas prices have nearly doubled. Obama opposed exploring for energy in Alaska. He gave millions of dollars to Solyndra, which then went bankrupt. And he blocked the Keystone pipeline, so we will all pay more at the pump.”

Four sentences, four misrepresentations. Gas prices, tied to the world market, would have gone up no matter who was president. Mr. Obama has not ruled out further leasing in Alaskan waters. Solyndra, a solar panel maker, is the only big failure in a broader program aimed at encouraging nascent energy technologies. The Keystone XL oil pipeline has nothing to do with gas prices now and, even if built, would have only a marginal effect.

The message war has really just begun. The oil industry has the money, but Mr. Obama has a formidable megaphone. He must continue to use it.

See also this story by Helene Cooper and Jennifer Steinhauer on Obama’s call to end (wasteful, pointless, unnecessary, corrupt) oil subsidies:

 President Obama called on Congress to end $4 billion in tax subsidies for oil and natural gas companies on Thursday, casting the issue as a choice between plumbing scarce resources versus investing in clean energy research.

“That’s the choice facing Congress today,” Mr. Obama said, before the Senate voted on repealing the tax breaks. “They can either vote to spend billions of dollars on oil subsidies that keep us trapped in the past. Or they can vote to end these taxpayer subsidies so that we can invest in the future. It’s that simple.”

The president made his remarks in the Rose Garden as gas prices across the country have soared, becoming an issue that could hamper his re-election bid. Administration officials said in an e-mail to reporters that the three largest oil companies in the United States have made a combined profit of more than $80 billion last year, or $200 million a day.

“Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour,” Mr. Obama said.

“The biggest oil companies are raking in record profits — profits that go up every time folks like these pull into a gas station,” Mr. Obama said, flanked by a cast of ordinary Americans who administration officials said have been hurt by rising gas prices.

“But on top of these record profits,” Mr. Obama said, “oil companies are also getting billions a year in taxpayer subsidies — a subsidy they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.”

“It’s like hitting the American people twice,” Mr. Obama said.

He said the money saved should be used on clean energy projects, including wind power, solar powerbiofuels and fuel-efficient cars, trucks, homes and buildings. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2012 at 9:25 am

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