Blood before oil: How Democrats subsidize one and demonize the other

Matt Wolking Contributor
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Republicans should welcome the Democrats’ proposal to eliminate tax “subsidies” provided to oil companies. Then they should promptly attach a measure that would block all federal funds from flowing to Planned Parenthood.

It’s unfortunate that such a move would doom the bill. Democrats’ gaseous moralizations about “subsidizing profits” apparently only apply when the companies in question aren’t providing abortions.

According to its 2008-2009 annual report, Planned Parenthood has nearly $1 billion in net assets. It’s made over $500 million in profit over the last nine years. Of course, these numbers aren’t anywhere close to those being put up by the oil companies; considering the fact that nearly every adult in America is using a significant amount of their product each day, that’s no surprise. However, Democrats aren’t concerned with actual figures (that is, after all, why they are Democrats). Rather, their recent ire is focused on the fact that oil company profits are being “subsidized” by taxpayers. Their choice of words is deliberately inaccurate, of course, but the point is, from Planned Parenthood to petroleum, the principle should apply the same.

The U.S. taxpayer does not “subsidize” oil company profits. The American Petroleum Institute points out that “the oil and natural gas industry currently enjoys no unique tax credits or deductions.” Taxpayers do, however, send money directly to Planned Parenthood thanks to Title X.

Those in Congress and the White House eyeing the liberal nirvana of $10-per-gallon gasoline have conflated tax deductions and credits with subsidies in an attempt to win the public debate and turn a neat political trick. It’s an effort to flip the tables on Republicans by urging them to cut what Democrats portray as wasteful spending. Now, with the issue so effectively muddied, Republicans should seize the advantage and demand conservative solutions: a simpler, less invasive tax code enforced uniformly and the elimination of all special interest subsidies, from ethanol to abortion.

Special interests have run wild in recent decades, creating a special tax break for anything their lobbyists could get slipped into pages upon pages of legislation. It’s another way for members of Congress to earmark and curry favor — only different in that they’re giving away money that hasn’t entered the coffers yet. Eliminating most or all of the existing tax credits and broadening the tax base is a conservative thing to do.

Current demand for oil is on an upward swing, which makes Obama’s war on its domestic producers all the more puzzling. Imagine if our nation’s food supply was shrinking by the day as a result of authoritarian regulation. Would the electorate, even for one moment, consider it acceptable for our government to dictate where and when more could be produced, or when its producers had made enough money?

The administration’s plan is to direct consumers’ frustration with oil prices at the oil companies. It’s understandable: for a White House intent on punishing its enemies, an industry that donates 75 percent of its political contributions to Republicans is a ripe target.

So now, thanks to political motivations and the enviro-lobby, the deepwater drilling rig Noble Clyde Boudreaux has joined six others in leaving the Gulf of Mexico for friendlier waters. More could follow their lead. As Louisiana State University’s Joseph Mason pointed out recently in The Wall Street Journal, the Energy Information Administration forecasts a 240,000 barrels-per-day (13%) drop in production in the Gulf this year, and another 200,000 drop next year.

The president’s solution? “One of the key ways we’re going to get gas prices down is just to use less oil. Right? If you buy less, prices go down,” he told a crowd in Reno last month. Equally simple but infinitely more grounded in reality is the formula for higher prices: slower production plus rising demand. But Obama’s message, like his policies, is anti-growth: you naughty consumers can’t keep your lavish driving habits.

This week, Senate Democrats are bringing executives from five major oil companies before the Finance Committee. The politicians will grandstand and the producers — those who would like to deliver more gasoline to consumers than they are currently able to — will stumble under interrogation. That’s how these hearings are designed. It’s a pernicious event that’s become a ritual, perpetrated by those with the deepest of double standards. If breaks given to profitable entities at the taxpayer’s expense are wasteful, why should Planned Parenthood be exempt? The wrong profits are on trial in the Senate, and Democrats should be forced to explain why.

Matt Wolking is the Executive Producer of The Laura Ingraham Show. You can email him at matt@mattwolking.com.