Oil Company Tax Breaks: Like Food Stamps For Bill Gates!

America’s oil companies rake in the largest corporate profits in the world.   Last quarter (three-month period), for instance, ExxonMobile reported an after-tax profit of almost US$ 11 billion!!

These  same companies have also been receiving massive tax breaks, some for a very long time, while others were passed during the GW Bush administration.  Overall, the industry receives break totaling  US$4 billion a year!!

Based upon their profits and the amount of tax they don’t pay, can anyone explain the logic and/or fairness in providing tax breaks to an oil company bringing in after-tax profits of perhaps US$40 billion or more a year??

Can anyone explain why republicans are pushing legislation in which seniors and the poor would bear the brunt of reduced funding for medicare, medicaid, food stamp programs, heat assistance, etc., while these oil companies make profits so high that they are larger than the entire national budgets of some small countries?

Perhaps the republicans in the US senate should be asked to explain it.  Last week in the US senate they prevented a vote on eliminating these costly, wasteful and unnecessary oil company tax breaks from passing by a mere 8 votes.  Some republicans, including senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, claimed that the oil companies would pass the increased expense onto consumers.  But a report by the non-partisan  Congressional Reseach Service (CRS) said just the opposite.  Specifically, the report states that

“Oil companies get a 6 percent deduction in net income for domestic production. Ending this would be equivalent to an increase on the tax on corporate profit.  It is widely accepted that a proportional change in taxes on profit affects neither the firm’s incremental costs or revenues, and therefore does not change its behavior with respect to output. Since output does not change, there is little reason to believe that the price of oil, or gasoline, consumers face will increase.”

It went on to explain that the price of oil is so high that there’s plenty of incentive for continuing to produce oil in the U.S.  “With current oil prices at or near $100 per barrel in the United States, it is unlikely that firms will slow production, or close wells as the result of the loss of the Section 199 deduction.”

If the stated reason of preventing increased gas prices is false, than what’s the GOP’s REAL reason for opposing this legislation, besides the fact that oil companies contribute large sums of money to the republicans’ political campaigns?  Republican dogma states that corporate America should be free to operate as it wishes; taxes are always bad; government is always wrong; and the poor are always easy victims.  Apparently the GOP was absent (or comatose) when the 2008-2009 recession was playing on every street in America.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted between May 5th and 9th, 2011, almost 52% of all Americans favor a balanced approach to deficit and debt reduction, i.e., both reduced spending and increased taxes.  Thus, it would seem that the republican congressionals worried about keeping their jobs may have grossly miscalculated the political strategy required to win the next election.

And as lazy, ignorant and misinformed as many people in the USA are, sooner or later lots of them are going to ask why exactly they have to suffer the pain of reduced or eliminated safety net programs like medicaid and food stamps and heat assistance, while the mega-fortunes of the well-connected rich and powerful are unabatedly multiplying exponentially.

And while the oil companies last week complained that any relaxing of their tax breaks would be “unamerican”, they never missed an opportunity to raise the price of heating oil, gasoline, and all other oil-distillate products.

It really makes one wonder how deep greed can go in humans, and how people (or a political party) can embrace their own greed at the expense of universal quality of human life.

To that end, , HBO has produced and is airing a very important movie entitled “To Big To Fail“, which clearly describes the events that led to the 2008-2009 recession. Each of these events was fueled by individual and corporate greed that influenced the financial companies to take extremely risky actions.

In a snowball effect caused by these risky action and eased by financial deregulation, the USA drove dangerously close to a major financial meltdown that was only very narrowly avoided at the last moment.  Had it occurred, it would have made the 1930’s Great Depression look like a walk in the park.  Just-plain-greed was the root cause.

Anyone who either believes in a totally deregulated free market and corporate welfare such tax breaks for oil companies, or who just wants to understand the events and decisions that resulted in the worse financial crisis in the USA since the Great Depression, need to see this movie.

It will astound you, and maybe even scare you.


If the World is Ending Saturday, Does the National Debt Matter?

According to a Christian broadcasting network called “Family Radio” based in Oakland, California and heard in at least 61 countries, the world is going to end this Saturday, May 21, 2011.

More specifically, the Earth will begin to be destroyed on that date by earthquakes, starting at the International Date Line in the Pacific, and continuing to spread westward into the next time zone each hour.  However, it will take a full five months to vanquish the planet, ending on October 21st, 2011, when, with the Earth in shambles, the last human will die.

This Saturday, however, only those destined to beamed up directly to heaven will die.  Unfortunately, the expected number of “heaven-direct” beamers will only be a very minute micro-fraction of the human race.  The rest of humanity will suffer unspeakable horrors over the next five months, until the last living person has succumbed to pestilence, starvation, disease, lawlessness, rape, pillage, fire, brimstone, and endless evangelical babble from the “enlightened ones”.

The guy who came up with all this is Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, host of its program “Open Forum”, and the force behind Family Stations Inc., which owns Family Radio.  He had previously predicted that the world would end on September 6, 1994, but explained the following day (when the Earth was still here) that he had not completely digested all that the bible had to say on the matter and was therefore rushed in that slightly inaccurate prediction.

This time, however, he says he’s completed all of the required biblical research and is absolutely certain that he’s really got the divine scoop on Judgement Day.  He’s even written a “mathematical” explanation of the prediction, which you can view (if you dare) HERE.  In his own words, “I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true.” Cool, huh?

As a result, he and his followers implemented Project Caravan, in which several motor homes have crisscrossed the USA, warning humankind of the impeding rapture in accordance with Ezekiel 33.

So if the world begins to end (which is a weird word construction in itself) this Saturday….Do you still have to pay your bills?  Should you stay on your diet?   Should you still practice safe sex?  Does it matter if you get drunk and stay that way?  Would you still have be law-abiding?  Can you tell your boss to stuff it?  Will it matter if food spoils?

And under these circumstances, does health care reform even matter?  If republicans destroy Medicare, does anyone care?  How about gas prices? Do they matter anymore?

A group known as American Atheists is planning an “End of the World” party at a Tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday, proving that the answer to the above questions is a resounding “No“.

If Harold Camping and his followers are right and you’re still alive on Sunday, May 22th, it will simply mean that you’re not one of the divinely chosen few “heaven-direct” people who will be beamed up on Saturday to eternal paradise. And if you don’t feel the Earth shake under your feet that day….well, maybe you’re just not paying attention.

Finally…these folks, most of whom must invariably be ultra-extreme-religious-right republican wingnuts, are seemingly saying that the national debt doesn’t matter, since after October 21, 2011, there won’t be anyone left on Earth to collect it, anyway.  Thus, these folks have single-handedly solved the both the deficit spending/national debt issue AND rapture all at once.  How cool is THAT??  🙂

But as entertaining as all of this is (unless you really believe it, in which case you’re probably scared), it’s also tragic.  Some folks have actually given up their homes, jobs and even their families to join this lunatic-fringe group.  They not only believe that every literal word of the bible is true, but also that Harold Camping’s interpretation is perfect and infallible.  That kind of gullibility is sad…and it’s extremely dangerous.

Yet, in a sick kind of way, one has to acknowledge the efficient construction of this “self-reinforcing delusion”:  If you’re alive on Sunday, May 22nd, it’s only because you’re not one of the “heaven-direct” group, so you can continue to claim credibility at least until October 22, 2011.

So now, consider the following very sobering fact:  Except for not committing murder, what else distinguishes these folks from the Taliban or any other group of fundamentalist religious fanatics in history?

This exposes the blatant hypocrisy of certain purported Christians who condemn Muslim extremists/fundamentalists, but either lightly dismiss or actually believe these Christian doomsday advocates.  Yet, extremists/fundamentalists in the USA have something in common with the Islamist extremists/fundamentalists they condemn:  the embrace of the unprovable, unbelievable, illogical, fantastical, supernatural, and that perceived as supremely directed or mandated, even though there isn’t a single shred of proof for any of it.

On the other hand….if they’re right and the rest of us are wrong….then maybe you really should party hard like there’s no tomorrow…which is what they’re claiming.   🙂

Boehner’s GOP Budget Hurt the Poor & Pissed Off Catholics

As a result of the November 2010 mid-term elections. the GOP took control of the US House of Representative in January 2011.  They won because the voters believed that the GOP would somehow rein in unnecessary, wasteful government spending.  In doing so, they would begin to control budget deficits and the national debt, presently at US$14 trillion.

Veteran Congressman John Boehner, republican from Ohio, was elected Speaker of the House, the person who controls the agenda of the House of Representatives.  In a blaze of fanfare, Boehner brought HR1, the GOP proposed budget bill, up for the vote he knew the republicans would win.  It passed.

Among the 384 pages of this bill, presently being processed in the US senate, are provisions for either ending or drastically reducing funding for such safety-net programs for the poor as the federal food stamp program and the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) nutrition program.  The bill also drastically reduces funding for Medicaid, the program that provides medical care for the very poor.

Concurrently, the GOP also proposes to reduce taxes on the rich and the big corporations.   Evidently, they think they will pay for these tax cuts, and also reduce the federal budget, by taking food out of the mouths of the poor and depriving them of medical care.

Beside being a very small part of the federal budget, hurting the poor is contrary to Christianity teachings, according to a letter to John Boehner signed by 70 professors, priests, nuns and others from Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. and other Catholic colleges in the USA.  This is particularly significant considering that Boehner is a catholic himself.  In fact, he’s scheduled to speak this Saturday at CUA, delivering the commencement address at their graduation.

In their letter, the 70 concerned catholic officials told Boehner that he had the worst record in congress regarding legislation that protects the poor.  That’s pretty strong language.  “One of the most ancient teachings of Christianity is preferential treatment of the poor, and it seemed that in the way in which the … budget tried to address the deficit and the debt, it was particularly targeting programs that serve the poor”, according to Stephen F. Schneck, who co-signed the letter.  Schneck is a CUA professor and director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

The authors included a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which is a 2004 Vatican document on Catholic teachings by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  This document essentially instructs politicians to think of the good of the people they represent and govern in a moral instead of autocratic fashion.  Or, put another way, don’t enrich the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and powerless.

There are lots of issues surrounding a formal religious group getting involved in the political arena in such a formal way as writing a letter regarding political actions.  Separation of church and state is the first of many that spring forth.

And what if other non-catholic religious organizations decide to get more politically involved, too?  It’s feasible that eventually quasi-religious groups of opposing political parties could become the norm, somewhat like in Northern Ireland, for example.  Politically dueling religious parties could be opposing each other, a scenario that has led to violence in the past.  Additionally, what if your religion isn’t represented by a religion-based political party?   Will all religions demand equal representation?  Even the Zoroastrians??  And what about atheists??

And then there’s the tax-exempt status of formal religions and their institutions.  The federal and state governments have granted tax-exempt status to such things as church income, religious compounds, religious schools, church-held real estate holdings (even when those holdings produce a profit), etc., ostensibly because religious institutions supposed to be above political needs and/or representation and/or involved in the political/governing process.  After all, church and state are separated, right?

However, what is perhaps the most remarkable about the letter to Boehner is that the GOP, the party of conservative religious-right wingers who would love nothing more than to weave Christianity into every fabric of government, are the very target of one of the most basic Christian organizations in the world…the Roman Catholics.  One can’t help but wonder if the GOP has any credibility left except with the ultra-extreme-right 10% of America.

Put another way….WTF!!

Even hate-radio host Rush Limbaugh felt compelled to defend Boehner and the GOP by claiming that the liberals put the Catholics up to all of this, and that liberals want everyone believe that Christ is the patron saint of liberalism!

When hate-&-fear mongers like Limbaugh blame liberals for “mind-controlling” unsuspecting religious folk to make them attack their “protective” GOP….

That’s a sure sign that the GOP is in trouble.  And John Boehner is just the tip of the iceberg.

So smile and enjoy.    🙂

Obama 1, bin Laden 0, GOP Silent, Palin Loses Again

This past week the world was treated to the news of a brilliantly executed CIAUS Navy SEALS commando-style 38 minute surgical military operation on a walled compound in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, which months of intelligence had established as the living quarters of Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden is the founder of Al Qaeda and is responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks (9-11) against the US.  He has been a target of the USA and many other countries since the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa.

The US operation in the very early morning of Monday, May 2nd, 2011 ended with the death of bin Laden, retrieval of his body by US forces, four other compound residents dead, and all American forces safe.  As more details of this very-well-planned, practiced, and executed raid have been released, it has become increasingly clear that the operation had its genesis many months ago when the CIA began tracking one of bin Laden’s couriers.

After the 9-11 attacks, ex-president GW Bush vowed that the US would pursue bin Laden until he was caught “dead or alive”.  It took almost ten years, and more than two years after Bush left office, for that vow to be fulfilled.  That’s really interesting considering that the republicans have always been the ones to claim that it is they, and not the democrats, that support a strong military and a strong world leadership role.  President Obama, of course, is a democrat.

For all the criticism heaped against Obama by the republicans during the past two years, and particularly since the November 2010 election when the republican took back control of the US House of Representatives,  they have, with one very remarkable exception and another not-so-remarkable exception, been very silent about the success of this operation, which was monitored during its planning and ultimately authorized for action by president Obama.  The one very remarkable exception, strangely, is well-known hate-radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Less than 24 hours after Obama addressed the USA and the world very late on the evening of Sunday, May 1st, 2011 to formally announcement the completion of the US operation that resulted in bin Laden’s death, Limbaugh actually expressed thankfulness for Obama during his radio show.  To be sure, Limbaugh tried to weave some criticism of Obama in with the praise, but ultimately the balance of the message was pro-Obama.

Additionally, US congressman Peter King, republican fro New York State and the head of the Homeland Security Committee of the House of Representatives, praised Obama for his “tremendously skilled operation”.

Donald Trump, who fancies himself as Obama’s worst nightmare, has wisely remained publicly silent .  So have the vast majority of republicans in the leadership of the senate, the House of Representatives and the party at large.  The monumental success of the Obama administration’s military operation resulting in bin Laden’s death only two years and four months into Obama’s first term as president is the last thing the GOP wants to keep in the spotlight, given the fact that the the last republican president was unable to accomplish the same goal in over seven years and two terms as president.  After all, it’s difficult to maintain credibility as the “strong military” party when your opponent, whom you claim is militarily weak, slays the enemy you couldn’t even find.  It doesn’t take too much intelligence to figure that one out.

That fact makes it all the more amusing that the big exception to the GOP’s politically strategic silence is Tea Party member and possible presidential hopeful Sarah Palin.  She has publicly criticized Obama, not just once, but twice regarding bin Laden’s death.

First, she spoke for 25 minutes on Monday night May 2nd, 2011 at Colorado Christian University, praising ex-president GW Bush and the US military for the successful operation, never once even speaking the name of the current president.  Then today, May 4th, 2011, in response to president Obama’s decision not to publicly release photos of bin Laden’s dead body, Palin publicly criticized his decision, warning him:  “no pussy-footing around”.

“No pussy-footing around”??  To the president who was not only involved in the planning but also the final authorization of the actual operation that terminated bin Laden…from the woman who didn’t even finish her elected single term as governor of Alaska??  Whose primary claim to fame, besides being physically attractive, is shooting wolves from helicopters and cooking moose stew??

How can anyone be so far removed from normal political realities?  Is she for real??  Or just deluded????

Even Michelle Bachmann, another Tea Party presidential hopeful who, like Palin, has made her share of stupid public statements, seems to have learned to keep her mouth shut while Americans in general celebrate the demise of bin Laden at the hand of the Obama administration.

There’s no accounting for the galactically stupid.  But there is sincere gratitude to the Obama team that accomplished this extremely dangerous goal.