Oil industry vilified while GE and Google are rewarded

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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As TheDC’s Amanda Carey reported, the release Exxon’s first-quarter profit figures Thursday prompted Democrats to engage in vilification of the industry (never mind that it employs millions of Americans).

While Democrats are hitting the big oil for not paying their “fair share” in taxes, the industry has paid an effective tax rate of 48.4 percent in 2009 (compared to an effective rate of 28.1 percent for other S&P companies).

The real story, though, is the selective outrage. Two other companies extremely close to the administration have shown big earnings — and yet have paid much less than their fair share:  GE and Google. Not only is there little outrage — they are rewarded with access.

Late last year, it was reported that Google used a series of tax maneuvers known as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” to lower their taxes (see my recent conversation with Nicholas Shaxson about tax havens).  The result is that Google reduced their overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent and their US tax rate to 22.2 precent (while other large US companies are paying over 28 percent).

Far from being chastised, Google continues to be viewed as one of the administrations favored companies, with former CEO Eric Schmidt a key Obama alley and a rumored contender for Commerce Secretary.

GE recently announced that its profit soared 77 percent in the first quarter of this year – this followed controversy over the fact that the company paid no federal taxes in 2010, through the use of deductions and shelters. Meanwhile, GE’s CEO has been a close adviser to the president and was appointed Chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Where’s the outrage?

Matt K. Lewis