Maybe President Obama will now find another way to campaign for the presidency, besides running around the country demonizing the oil industry. For two weeks, he tried that strategy, telling any crowd that would listen how Big Oil was unjustly gobbling up their tax dollars. And while the crowds gave the speeches an amen, the Democrat controlled Senate was less responsive. Yesterday, in a 51-47 vote, Senators shot down the bill Obama promoted, SB 2204, The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.
From the get go, it was obvious this wasn’t a serious proposal. Republicans were never going to vote for it, and Obama only made convenient stops in future battle ground states like Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina to promote it. Once there, he rolled up his sleeves, campaign-style, and played on people’s emotions. Over and over, he linked high gas prices to the oil industry’s profits. In Maryland, for example, he told the crowd that taxpayers are paying $4 a gallon to give the oil industry the $4 billion a year subsidy it receives, along with record profits. Putting a stop to this, through the Oil Subsidies Act, was his promise.
But while the crowds erupted in approval, Obama never explained how raising the oil industry’s taxes would be good for the economy or gas prices. The bill itself offered no solutions, either. None of that extra money was set towards a plan to lower the price of gas, or subsidize alternative energy, as he promised. Instead, the bill had it paying down the country’s trillion-dollar budget deficit. There were some tax break extensions included for producers of alternative energy, but that’s for money they’re already getting, and nothing that would make the Volt or Prius as popular as gas-guzzlers. Even the timing of the bill was suspect.
This week, Obama’s health care law has been the big political story, with the Supreme Court holding hearings on whether it’s constitutional or not. So if Obama and the Democrats were serious about checking the oil industry, Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, would’ve picked a less cluttered news week to bring this bill to the Senate floor. No Democrats even appeared on the usual networks like Fox, CNN, or MSNBC to rally support against the subsidies.
What this push did do was give Obama a chance to campaign against the oil industry in preparation for November and give Senators facing re-election the chance to say they voted in the best interest of their constituents. And that’s what they did.
Democrats took Obama’s lifeline and voted by their demographics. As a result, four of them from refinery states, like Louisiana’s own Mary Landrieu, cast their nay ballots. Meanwhile, the real cause of high gas prices, U.S. sanctions against Iran, continues to go unnoticed.
Iran and its $100 billion oil industry have been under the sanction hammer for a while now; the most recent Executive Order being signed this February. The sanctions essentially ban any country getting U.S. aid, which is most of the civilized world, from importing Iran’s oil. That potential supply disruption has caused speculation to go up and gas prices right along with it, linking any immediate solution to lifting the sanctions and letting Iran develop a nuclear weapon. That’s just not going to happen.
Meanwhile, as prices steadily rise, the public gets distractions like the Oil Subsidies Act. A similar proposal, HR 4108, by Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley, sits in the House. But it’ll probably rot in the hopper before John Boehner brings it to the floor, unless it’s to show how much Republicans hate it. For their part, Republicans aren’t offering any sanity either. More drilling is what they’re promoting, even though that’s a long-term trickle-down solution that will only benefit refineries, initially.
Don’t look for either party to drop the politicking and level with the public, admitting that there’s nothing they can immediately do about gas prices, except solve the Iran crisis. Explanations like that aren’t politically prudent. Populism is though. And because of that, the country will continually be subjected to heavy doses of idealism and rhetoric while receiving nothing close to an honest solution.