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Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Headshot

Oil Executive to Young People: 'As Long as I Make Money, I Don't Care What Happens to You'

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Cross-posted from Jack & Jill Politics

Quick question: Do you think that tax subsidies for the "big five" oil companies -- which earned $32 billion in profit during the first quarter of the year -- are more important than the financial aid we give to low-income college students?

My answer: Of course not. Investing in our young people is a far better use of taxpayer dollars than giving handouts to some of the world's most profitable corporations. My guess is that you agree.

How does the oil industry feel? Well, they aren't sure. When asked this question by Senator Schumer at a congressional hearing yesterday, James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips, uncomfortably refused to answer the question.

Additionally, he and his peers from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell repeatedly complained about unfair and "discriminatory" treatment, saying that the American people -- who face outrageous prices at the gas pump -- are unjustly scrutinizing the four billion dollars a year in tax breaks oil companies receive.

Really? Clearly they don't see or recognize that Americans are facing hardship and unfair challenges every day.

Just ask the young people who may lose their chance to go to college because the House leadership has proposed cuts to the Federal Pell Grant program.

It's unfair that more than two-thirds (70%) of Hispanics live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards for one or more pollutants, according to the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

It's unfair that 1 in 6 African-American children suffer from asthma, and that children of color are more likely to grow up in areas with dangerous levels of ozone.

It's unfair the food stamp program is threatened with a 20% cut at a time when so many families are hungry.

I have news for oil companies: There are true injustices occurring on a daily basis in America. Eliminating your tax subsidies is not one them.

It's the truth plain and simple; and it's time we called out these companies. For this opinion, Mr. Mulva would say that I, and the many others who share this view, are "un-American." And, when asked about these comments at the hearing, he refused to apologize for his rhetoric.

Again, really?

During times of crisis, true Americans, especially those in positions of power, ask themselves, "What can I do to help?" Instead, these executives ask themselves, "What can I do to ensure that government keeps helping me?"

Now is the time for government to choose who it serves: the oil companies or everyone else?

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it's about who we are as a country and where we want to go.

Do we want an America based on those timeless values and ideals of fairness and opportunity for all?

Or, do we want a country where the rich play by their own rules, while budgets are balanced on the backs of the middle class and poor?

The answer is clear and it's time to take action.

Oil companies have been given generous tax breaks for too long; now it's the American people's turn to have a chance at the American Dream.