The Fix Is In

Well, Hillary Clinton has her plan for fixing the gas price problem. And from what I can tell, her idea of “fixing” the situation closely resembles what a lot of us thought she should have done to her husband a long, long time ago.

She thinks that the federal government should be in charge of deciding just what is an appropriate level of profits for the oil companies, and taking away anything above and beyond that amount. This is the same federal government that (insert your favorite government idiocy/mismanagement/spending fiasco/monumental screwup here).

On the surface, Clinton’s notions have some appeal. ExxonMobil pulled in about $40 billion in profits last year, and that is enough to get anyone’s blood boiling when they’re forking over $50 at the pumps. (Count me among them.) But that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

From what I understand, though, ExxonMobil paid about $100 billion in taxes last year. And I’ve also read that the oil industry pays half again that much ($150 billion) in tax-related expenses — accountants and the like. If the CEO of ExxonMobil had enough cojones (translation: death wish), he’d go up to Capitol Hill, put those numbers up on a big piece of paper, and ask Congress “here’s a quarter of a TRILLION dollars you’re already costing us. How much more do you want?”

Hillary’s idea — a windfall profits tax on oil companies — has the advantage of having been tried before. As this guy noted, the consequence of Jimmy Carter’s bold initiative was to gut domestic oil production, increase the amount of foreign oil we imported, and ended up garnering 1/8 of the money originally projected.

The real atrocity here is that Clinton HAS to know her plan will be a disaster, and is pushing it anyway. I suspect this is so she can point at it and say “see, I’m trying to do something!” and whip up resentment and anger at Big Oil.

Because that’s the important thing here: to look like she’s doing something, and to harness people’s anger and other emotional responses over simple reason. The consequences of her policy won’t be obvious until after she’s elected, though, so that’s OK.

That’s the same kind of short-sighted thinking that her husband (who still needs to be “fixed”) evinced when he argued against developing the oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying that it wouldn’t provide any real benefits for at least ten years.

He said that in the mid-90s, a little over a decade ago.

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