As the spread of coronavirus and the brewing economic war between Saudi Arabia and Russia sends the stock market into turmoil, America’s wealthiest business owners are already flocking to the White House to sound the alarm.
Oil prices saw their sharpest drop in almost 30 years yesterday, causing panic in the boardrooms of shale and other fossil fuel companies. The Washington Post reports that the White House has been barraged with calls from “concerned energy sector allies” warning that the instability could put them out of business and floating the idea of extending low-interest loans to keep them afloat.
The Trump administration is “strongly considering” doing so, according to the Post.
BREAKING: White House likely to push federal aid for shale companies hit by coronavirus/international energy shock
Trump confidante & oil billionaire Harold Hamm lost $2 billion yesterday. Hamm reached out to admin but says he didnt make “direct" contacthttps://t.co/GsjHIJE6VI
— Jeffrey Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 10, 2020
But the need for assistance apparently extends only to the wealthy few at the top, as the Post also reports that the calls have been warning the Trump team against implementing any kind of “sweeping paid sick leave policy,” because God forbid the company have to spend any money helping the workers who actually produce the profits.
One of the men who reached out to the Trump administration is ex-CEO and billionaire Harold Hamm, whose 77% stake in the Continental Resources company lost $2 billion in value on Monday. Hamm also just so happens to have endorsed Trump for the presidency and has funneled $50,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, along with every pro-energy Republican politician under the sun.
Hamm said he advised the White House to weigh “any action that the administration might take to protect and preserve American interests at this time from being unfairly disadvantaged by whatever government — and we’re talking governments here, whether it be Russia or Saudi Arabia.”
More ominously, he warned, “how this could jeopardize those jobs and the economies in producing states and communities across America, from Pennsylvania to California and Texas to North Dakota.” He said he did not actually speak to the President himself.
The president’s fervent embrace of the fossil fuel sector and constant bragging about the growth of energy sector jobs in swing states like Pennsylvania make the survival of shale and other energy companies politically critical for him.
The fact that these industries are literally accelerating the onset of an ecological apocalypse has never once factored into any of his decisions; nor does the fact that the industry is $40 billion in debt and does not have a bright future.
Trump is already considering bailouts of the airline, hotel, and cruise ship industries to keep them afloat during the coronavirus era; his constant framing of the public healthcare crisis as primarily an economic issue makes it clear that his top priority is not the health of the American people. Instead, he’s focused solely on protecting his re-election chances and the bank accounts of his wealthy supporters.
Under a different president, the oil crisis unfolding in the Middle East could be seen as a terrific opportunity to jump-start a huge investment into green technology, kick off the transition away from toxic fossil fuels, and keep the American economy from being so vulnerable to the machinations of authoritarian petrocracies.
But under a corrupt billionaire like Donald Trump, every crisis is just another opportunity to funnel public funds into the pockets of the wealthy.
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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.