The Supreme Court Made Oil Companies Citizens, But Who Will Make Them Patriots?

As citizens we are all expected to contribute to our society. Throughout the Great Recession we so often hear of shared sacrifice. We’ve all shouldered the burden of the economic recession. Some of us have faced unemployment of 9 to 20%. Some communities, like the African-American community have faced unemployment as high as 21%. Some of us have seen our 401k plans wither. Some of us have seen the value of our homes decrease below the value of our mortgages. Others have seen their pension plans drained by the economic downturn. Middle class wages have actually decreased by almost $1,000 in real terms over the last decade. But only a select few of us have had to share the burden of over $1 trillion in profits over that same decade.

In the 2010 midterm elections the balance of power in the House of Representatives shifted to a Republican majority, full of bright faced conservatives and tea party representatives. These new conservatives ran on the promise of job creation, fiscal conservatism, and small government. Most of all they ran on a promise to cut the deficit. So serious is their dedication to cutting the federal deficit that they are actually willing to seriously reengineer medicare. Unfortunately their seriousness stops at big oil.

The courageous new conservatives who are so dedicated to reducing the size of government, to reducing the federal deficit, can't seem to find it in their hearts, their conscience, or basic mathematics, to cut the subsidies to oil companies. No, the tea party and republican house majority voted unanimously that the middle class should shoulder the burden of righting the deficit. This week the Senate voted to do the same. The top 6 oil companies reported a total of more than $38 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011 alone, how could they possibly forego these tax subsidies?

2011 First Quarter Oil Profits

Admittedly, the $40 Billion in tax subsidies for oil companies over the next 10 years is a drop in the economic bucket. But that is the point. Such a small number that so clearly represents an opportunity to support the tax payer should be an easy vote to make. The oil companies aren't struggling, they are making record profits. Ending the subsidies doesn't raise taxes, it doesn't add any regulation, it simply returns US tax dollars back to the tax payers.

Our inability to take such a simple action reflects the extreme partisanship that is so rampant in our political system. How can we take the republican or the tea party seriously when they so quickly abandon their small government fiscal conservative values?

They say they are fiscal conservatives yet given the opportunity to save the US treasury $40 billion with zero impact on our nation, they voted unanimously not to do so.

They say they support limited government and free markets, yet when given the opportunity to retract government's influence in the energy market place, they voted unanimously against limiting the size of government.

They say they are champions of the tax payer, champions of the middle class, yet when given the chance to return $40 billion in tax payer dollars to the tax payers, they unanimously voted no.

In the Citizens United case the Supreme Court established that corporations are essentially citizens, ensuring them their first amendment rights, and the unrestricted ability to exercise those rights through campaign contributions. Concerned citizens would work to help their neighbors who have little when they have plenty. Yet our oil company citizens do just the opposite.

Citizens who seek to keep to themselves, free of involvement in others lives, would at the very least do no harm to their fellow citizens. Our oil company citizens actively lobby and argue that they rightly deserve these subsidies while their fellow citizens struggle in this recession to make ends meet.

The question of corporate citizen-hood is certain to be subject to debate for years to come. What can not be debated is that citizen or not, oil companies are not patriots. Forgoing these subsidies would have very little impact on their profits while sending a strong signal that they support America, that they support their fellow Americans. Our corporate citizen brothers possess so little concern for their nation and their fellow citizens that they can't even find the common decency amidst $1 trillion of profit to give back the money they receive from their struggling fellow citizens.

This is not surprising. Corporations are not and can never be citizens. They can never be patriots. Their interests are in the hands of their investors, their stockholders. Corporate interests are in profit. Does this make corporations evil? No. Does it make them somehow unworthy of participating in our society? No. Corporations are an important part of our society, they provide very real value, but they will never act as citizens, it's simply not in their nature.

Corporations will always choose the action that is in the best interests of their stockholders. Similarly then, shouldn't our elected officials always act in the interests of the electorate? Unfortunately, it would appear that our elected officials increasingly decide in the best interests of their stockholders, their corporate campaign contributors. If our elected officials won't act in the best interests of the voters, who do we have left?

Here's an idea that oil companies can support for cutting these subsidies. Don't think of it as an act of patriotism, think of it as an act of customer appreciation. America has long been your biggest customer, think of the $40 billion dollar tax subsidy as a customer appreciation discount. Surely your biggest customer is worthy of a 4% customer rewards discount? I mean after all, the tax subsidies are our money in the first place. It's a win win, you get to look responsible, patriotic and generous, and all you have to do is give us back our money.

Reader Comments


  1. By shelley at Jamie:

    This is great and I will use this article on my radio show tonight. I hope you can call in with some comments. The show is on at 7 pm at The name of the show is consciouslyamerican with sdanielle.

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Don’t Get Angry At Corporations

Take Action!

  • Here is a short list of actions you can take:

    1. Write your congressman or senator. Not a form letter, a real, well thought out letter. If you don’t have the time then give them a quick call.

    2. Write a letter to the oil companies. At the end of the day, they want your business, let them know that a little decency goes a long way.

    3. Buy less oil and gas. Consider buying a more fuel efficient car. Consider taking public transportation more often. Consider walking to the store. You can vote with your dollars, and they will hear you.

    4. Join the fight. If energy policy is the area that really lights your fire, consider finding and supporting a group that is working to make a difference.

    5. Shop Local. When you put your dollars into local businesses you strengthen your community. Up to 25% more of your money stays in your community when you shop local.

    Remember, as bad as things may seem, we do have a voice. You can vote with your dollars, you can speak out, and you can vote in every election.

    Action matters!

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