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Oil Companies and Their Theft of the American Dream (Part 3 of a Series on Corporate Greed)
A Universal Hatred
If there is a single common denominator for our modern society, one item with which every person living in a modern city can relate, it is the price of gas, or “petrol” to some. The price keeps going up, well out of proportion to every other commodity, and well beyond the government’s ‘cost of living’ figures (which are laughable at best).
Why is this so? We all wonder in unison. The problem is, there is no single, simple answer. The simplest, shortest answer is, “the stock market.” The fact is that oil, (or any other commodity for that matter), that is traded on the open market, is subject to the whims of price speculators buying ‘futures’ and other deals designed to deliberately drive the prices up for their own private profits. It is a selfish, “I’ve got mine—to hell with everyone else!” mindset.
The industry apologists will nay-say this notion, citing instead such things as tangles of import/export regulations, exploration and drilling costs, and a host of other factors. To some extent, the operating costs are legitimate, but belong figured into the actual costs of doing business.
Neither do I accept the excuse about regulations. As with the insurance industry, or any other powerful industry, many of these rules are self-imposed. That is, they have carefully crafted the language (of these laws) to their own (profit) advantage, and lobbied for their passage.
If you don’t believe me, there are countless websites, a few of which I’ve listed below, charting exactly where the money goes and from whom. On any day, you can visit your state capitol or even the halls of the U.S. houses of congress, and find oil lobbyists roaming the halls like sharks in a feeding frenzy. They are not there to serve our interests, but their own. Sad to say, but the truth of the matter is, our government is bought and paid for by Big Oil money.
Then Something Went Horribly Wrong...
The USA does not actually import a large percentage of its oil. We drill most of it ourselves, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico being the largest sources, with some drilling off the coast near Santa Barbara. (Or, is this even true? The truth is, we don't know.) More corporate obfuscation has served to muddy the issue, with some sites listing as low as a 25% share of imports, up to as high as 72%, and everything between! It is all part of their game!
Nonetheless, the corporations doing the local drilling also drill in other countries, ship that product elsewhere (China, Japan, Great Britain, and other places). Then they raise our at-home prices, forcing us to subsidize them for product we do not receive. The only place in the USA that needs oil imported is Hawaii; obviously, since they are an island with no oil reserves, and we have not yet figured out how to fuel vehicles on lava.
They may be ‘multi-national’ corporations, but their headquarters are here, making them USA companies first. One of them has the audacity to sell to overseas markets every drop of the oil drilled here, and sell to its USA customers oil they pay to have imported from elsewhere. What is wrong with that picture?? Their actions are unconscionable, unethical, inexcusable, and need to be made illegal. However, given that Big Oil virtually owns our elected officials, that is unlikely to happen.
The Real Cause of the Housing Bust
When the real estate market was booming a few years ago, everyone was buying homes. Some certainly overextended themselves and bought homes they could not realistically afford. Everything seemed rosy. Then, the bubble burst. It began to wobble, truthfully, when gas prices began inching upwards. Transportation costs were the most directly affected next step. Then came raw materials, dependent at they were on transportation costs. It became a vicious cycle..
After the oil companies got away with this over the course of a year or two, they discarded the tape measure, and forgot about “inching” prices up. They raised a nickel or a dime overnight with no explanation, qualms or apologies. Only excuses, and flimsy ones at that. If you pay attention, you will notice prices of fuel at the pump continue to rise regardless of the price per barrel of oil. Recently, the pump prices have risen even as the per-barrel prices dropped; this has, in fact, happened numerous times. There is but a single word for this: greed!
And then everything crashed, and crashed hard. Prices for fuel continued to escalate, other costs followed, and round and round it went, faster and faster, spinning out of control like chess pawns on a turntable—as the speed revs up—more and more fly off into oblivion.
Another Full-Scale Depression!
The government tried (and is still trying) to soft-pedal this as a “recession.” It is nothing of the sort. It is a full-scale depression, at least as bad, and probably worse than the stock market crash in 1929. The direct cause may be different, but the end results are the same. People out of work; people losing their homes; people unable to afford food; people unable to afford even an apartment and becoming homeless.
Unemployment is at a record high. Do not trust or believe the unemployment statistics you see on the news. They are false. These statistics count only people actually receiving unemployment benefits, and conveniently ignore those whose benefits have expired; those who lost their jobs and were not eligible for unemployment benefits; the under-employed who may be stuck in minimum-wage part-time jobs and unable to afford a place to live.
These very same news broadcasts will then turn around and report on the increased need at food banks and other charities. Does no one see the contradiction and the connection here?
When Will It End?
Probably never, if all the general public ever does is gripe about it, but continue to do business as usual.
Behind all these woes; the bottom tier; the foundation sustaining these troubles? Big Oil. Yet, no one will say so. No newspapers or TV news reports or politician will say so. Why? Because Big Oil has everyone with any ‘clout’ buttoned up tight in their back pockets.
WELL, HERE I AM, AND I'M SAYING SO!!
This corporate greed is shortsightedness at its worst. These corporate executives and the shareholders to whom they answer are interested only in their own immediate profits and maximizing those profits to become as wealthy as possible. Oil companies have been posting record profits lately. Profits, folks. That’s money leftover after all expenses are taken care of. It is downright criminal the excess profits taken by these giants at the expense of the rest of us.
How Do They Help the Economy?
In a word, they don’t. Their position is selfish because of what they do with those profits. You have to ask? Why, they pocket them, of course. They use them to buy expensive homes, expensive cars and yachts, and every other kind of perk to show off their wealth. They can also afford high-priced tax lawyers to be sure they pay as few taxes as possible on their obscene incomes. They live what has come to be called “the good life.” In reality, it is not so good. What portion of those profits to they use to help the poor? What portion do they donate to food banks? What portion to they offer to spread around for the betterment of the community? Approximately 0%, that’s how much.
The shameful thing is, this country, indeed, the world, cannot sustain this for much longer. These greedy so-and-so’s in the upper echelons of every one of these giant corporations only care about themselves—they cannot see—or don’t care, that the coming collapse at their hands will also affect their own families—their own children and grandchildren will be harmed by today’s choices. And they just don’t care.
Oh, sure, they may have investments, and hedge funds, and all that, but believe me, folks, when it all comes crashing down, all of that will be worth less than the paper on which it is printed. It might, however, make good tinder for that fire when the heat is turned off.
Government Budget Cuts
“The economy is a mess.” “The deficit is out of control.” “We must cut spending!” So howl the governors and the president, and a few token legislators. But how do they propose to make these cuts? Why, by attempting to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford the cuts, as usual. Who are these unfortunates?
- The elderly
Now, let’s examine why all of these are bad places to cut:
The elderly are already at risk from declining pensions, or pension funds lost in the recent debacle with the banks; the children who are particularly at risk are those from poor families who are already living on the edge; schools have already been cut to the bone—there is nothing left to cut but academics; libraries, like schools, have already had their budgets and therefore their hours slashed; firefighters do more than just fight fires—they train communities in life-saving techniques such as CPR and every so often rescue beloved pets from trees or children from wells; police are already stretched thin.
This Is Maddening
There is more than enough money brought in by Big Oil to more than adequately fund all needed services. That is, if these oil giants paid the taxes they rightfully should owe on that income. But, they do not! They slip and slide through all sorts of loopholes, exceptions, exclusions, and greased palms to avoid paying their fair share of taxes . (And they are not alone in this avoidance!) Note the description of the 1st book mentioned at the right: it looks as if they have finally succeeded!
Ergo, almost every penny they bring in as profit remains as profit to fatten their own overweight wallets. These offshore tax shelters need to end. When you and I, as private citizens, file our income taxes, one pointed question from the accountant is, “Do you have any stocks, bonds, or foreign bank accounts?” If your answer is “yes,” you must pay Uncle Sam a share of that interest income. Not so for Big Oil. They have bought their way out of such rules as apply to the rest of us
Yet, all the same things mentioned under the previous heading are always first on the chopping block directly because of corporations refusing to pay their fair share!
Why? When is enough enough? When are we going to stop rolling over and playing dead? When are we going to realize the numbers of the trodden-upon trump the numbers of the wealthy, and demand that the original American Dream of our Founding Fathers be restored? It is past time, and the clock is still ticking!
- MoveOn.org Political Action: Make Congress "Oil-Free"
A political action petition site asking to stop Big Oil from buying Congress. (Ok, perhaps a bit too little, too late, but hey--it's a start!)
- Campaign Contributions Versus Lobbying: Big Oil Spends Big Money in Washington Red, Green, and Blue
Why Big Oil has switched more money to lobbying than direct contributions to candidates.
The American Petroleum Institute, the Big Oil industrys chief lobbying organization, will start directly backing political candidates in the second quarter
- Oil & Gas | OpenSecrets
Chart disclosing how much campaign money politicians have raised and where it came from.
- Oil prices soar in spite of sharp increase in U.S. production under Obama | Grist
And still the prices rise....
- Tax bills for 5 corporate giants - Chevron: $8 billion (3) - CNNMoney.com
Here's another of the big 5 that skated out of taxes owing.
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© 2011 Liz Elias