It’s just a fact of life in America today that while millions of Americans must fight tooth and nail to put food on the table for their families, the biggest multinational corporations reap billions in profits off of taxpayer subsidies handed to them by the Republican legislators they’ve bought with donations. The Guardian has discovered that three of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world are some of the worst offenders:
A proposed Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line for $1.6bn (£1bn) in state subsidy, according to a deal struck in 2012 when the company made an annual profit of $26.8bn.
ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana are benefitting from $119m of state subsidy, with the support starting in 2011, when the company made a $41bn profit.
A jobs subsidy scheme worth $78m to Marathon Petroleum in Ohio began in 2011, when the company made $2.4bn in profit.
Shell has spent $1.2 million lobbying in Pennsylvania over the past four years, including another million in donations to the now-deposed Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who voted himself out of office with massive budget cuts to the public school system while still finding the money to give corporations huge tax breaks. The story is the same all across the country, especially in red states.
Republican candidates receive huge donations from corporate sponsors during the election, and then offer tax breaks in return; the cost of which falls on the working families in their state. Scott Walker’s tax breaks for corporations has lost the state some $275 million while the state struggles with a $2 million dollar deficit- Walker’s solution is to cut hundreds of millions from the state university and pre-kindergarten programs.“Big oil, gas, and coal have huge influence on politicians and governments and they get that influence the old fashioned way – they buy it,” says Steven Kretzmann, director of the Oil Change International NGO. “Through campaign finance, lobbying, advertising and superpac spending, the industry has many ways to influence candidates and government officials seeking re-election.”
It’s even more jarring as the climate crisis continues to get worse at a dramatically accelerating pace, the profits of fossil fuel companies are being taken out of the pockets of taxpayers. While we should be investing in renewable energy sources and sustainable infrastructure, the same old wasteful, polluting, and exploitative practices are just as widespread as ever. As the World Bank urges an end to the rampant carbon emissions that will eventually threaten civilization as we know it, Republicans in Congress are fighting to expand the corporate profits while corporations hold cash and job-strapped states hostage for tax breaks. It’s a vicious cycle in which the American consumer loses every time, and it is our duty as a nation to bring a halt to it, if at the very least, to ensure that our children will be able to grow up in some semblance of stability and security from the terrible fury of nature’s wrath.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.