Wednesday, June 11

Just Ramblin, No 2: Big Oil and Congress

So Congress is after Big Oil. Again. Congress has been after Big Oil for a while and hasn't been able to implement much change. Apparently Big Oil is responsible for rising gas prices, rising food prices, and probably has something to do with my split ends, too.

I don't disagree that Big Oil is making scandalous profits. And I think big companies should be required to pay taxes and should not be gifted with all sorts of tax incentives (translation: reason not to pay taxes) for any variety of reasons. I understood why Chicago gave Boeing lots of tax incentives to move to Chicago--the company brought people and jobs and somehow all of that will magically offset the absence of taxes that help pay for public services and schools. Of course, it hasn't, but that's a different story. So I think that in a democratic society that relies on taxes to pay its bills, corporate citizens should pay their bills, too. But I'm also in favor of a flat tax.

I wanted to write to each and every member of the Congress about going after Big Oil. Sure, go after Big Oil. Make sure that corporations don't gouge the public citizenry. But don't do it for the spectacle because you think that will somehow satisfy the apparently ignorant public. Keep in mind there are a lot of other factors; it's never that simple. Especially in a convoluted economy like ours.

For example, why not put some actual controls on the stock market and the banking industry? I mean, our economy seems to be driven more by the speculation that occurs on Wall Street that just about anything else. I was appalled when I heard a report that the stock market was opening flat the other day because Wall Street "bet" that Bernake would report something different. Bet? As in gambled with the US and world economies? Really? Is that such a good idea?

I know we have all sorts of technological whizbang gizmos to help people make decisions, but it's people making decisions about investments and people speculating on investments. And didn't speculation contribute to the Crash of 1929? Are we really okay with other people--who don't really have the best interests of anyone but themselves at heart--betting with our money, with our economy? Quite frankly, I'm not.

So members of Congress: if you're going to go after anyone about the state of the economy, take a look at Wall Street. And as you are doing that, make sure those lobbyists and special interest contributors aren't shoving coin in your pockets. I know you like to call those "contributions," but any time anyone makes a contribution and then expects something in return for it, it's no longer a "contribution." If there are expectations tied to it, some belief that you will do something to favor the contributor in return for the contribution, that's a "bribe" or a "payoff." And because most of your constituents can't afford to make large "contributions" and can't afford to have a "spokesperson" (translation: highly paid lobbyist representing a particular organization or a particular sector of the economy), your constituents just hope you remember to represent them as well as try to represent the best interests of the country. Of course, if you're more politician than public servant, your constituents will be waiting a long time.

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