THE BLOG

Is an end to oil company welfare a winner for the Dems this Fall?

07/19/2010 04:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have this cousin who made $45.2 billion the other year and I just found out that he didn't pay any tax to the US government last year.

Oh, and he received his fair share of the billions in taxpayer-funded government subsidies that people like him are eligible for.

If this was an actual person, we would be crying for jail time - "put him in the gallows with Maddof," we would say.

So where's the outrage when it comes to companies like Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) who made $45.2 billion in 2008, didn't pay any federal income tax in 2009 and is in a sector that receives billions every year in corporate taxpayer-funded welfare?

I would argue that there is outrage, but the issue seems so overwhelmingly massive that a certain level of public malaise has set in over the years.

A report out last year found that between 2002 and 2008, the fossil fuel industry - oil, coal and gas - received $72.5 billion from the US government in the form of tax breaks and subsidies.

Given the state-of-play right now, between the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the impending doom of the current climate legislation, it is high time to ramp up the public and lawmakers on the idea of ending these unfair taxpayer handouts to the largest most successful companies in America.

That should be the least to come out of this death gusher in the Gulf we have been watching for over two months now. And if this (along with job creation) isn't a winning issue going into the mid-term elections for the Democratic party, then I don't know what is.

President Obama knows this already, but after announcing last month in Pittsburgh that he would urge Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks" for oil companies and begin to look at ways to significantly increase investment in clean energy alternative, we haven't heard much since.

Of course, the oil companies, Republicans and lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber of Commerce will bite back fast, framing the issue as one that would raise gas prices for every American. In fact, they already are, with the American Petroleum Institute framing a cut in taxpayer subsidies [WMV video file] to oil companies as an increase in the amount of tax energy companies will have to pay.

That is some messed up logic - spinning an end to oil company subsidies as a tax increase - but it will work if there is not some push-back pointing out that multi-million and billion dollar companies are getting huge taxpayer handouts and making record profits at the same time. With profits in the billions every year, I am sure companies like Exxon, BP and Shell can manage without a corporate welfare program. That money would be much better spent on things like education and health care instead of helping these companies make a few extra million a year in profit.

At least that is the argument that could be made if the Democrats have the stomach to battle back and be the leaders the American public want them to be on this issue.

President Obama has already made the commitment, now it is time for his party and Congress to take action and end the subsidies to oil companies. It's good politics, good for the environment and good for the taxpayers.