Listening to the radio a couple of days ago while driving to the airport, I heard some unbelievable news. It was still early in the day, so the stock market was still busy trading. But the price of oil was in free fall, dropping by percentage points on the hour, so the energy traders (the same people who are making billions of dollars off of us by speculating on the price of oil) ordered the trading to stop! They love the market when it makes them rich, but they are apparently not interested in taking the risks that go along with being involved in it.
On top of that, they are spending billions of dollars on television advertising which shows regular people, the kind of folks that you and I identify with, telling us to call our congressman and ask him not to tax energy businesses. They give all kinds of lame reasons, such as how it will affect an already weak economy, and how it will wind up costing us more in the long run. That they have the guts to this is incredible. Their contempt for our intelligence must be bottomless.
What they are trying to call a “tax” is actually not a tax at all. It is the withdrawal of a subsidy, money they are paid by the government ostensibly to put them on an equal footing and make them competitive in the world market. Withdrawing the subsidy is not a tax in any way, shape or form. Why do companies, reaping record, windfall profits, need government welfare payments? Beyond that, why are they not required, like small businesses, to pay their fair share of the tax burden? They appear to have bought and paid for our government, party affiliation notwithstanding. That’s the only reason I can think of.
Whining about just wanting to make a reasonable profit isn’t going to get my sympathy. Their profit margins are huge. They couch their figures in such a way that it is difficult to tell how much they are making, or they talk about how natural disasters affect their bottom line (the Mississippi River flooding is the latest lie) but the fact of the matter is that the percentage of dollars they make above their costs of production is much, much higher than any small businessperson in this country. Way above.
So how should our government step in and protect us from this greed that sucks the life out of our economy and reduces our spendable income? I have a suggestion that I think will work.
Keep the subsidies. Let every major oil company in America keep its government welfare check, provided its profit margin on the sale of gasoline does not exceed 10%. That’s fair. The minute the profit margin goes above that line, pull the subsidy. The minute that it exceeds 20%, levy a windfall profits tax on the excess. That way, they can’t simply collect the tax money from us, they’ll have to pay it after their profit margin is established and their sales figures are in.
The other alternatives, more drilling, more conservation, making sure that you utilize your vehicle as little as possible, should also continue. Reduce the amount you use, and knock down the demand.
This is our country, and it’s our money.