The Congressional Super-Committee has been tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures over a ten-year period by November 23rd. They’ll likely consider all sorts of draconian measures like reducing social security benefits and cutting spending from other programs that help people in need.
One simple and relatively straightforward way to reduce the deficit would be to eliminate federal subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas companies — which are among the most profitable corporations in the world. Due to the complexity of the tax code, it is extremely difficult to tell exactly how much money in federal subsidies the oil and gas industry receives. Estimates I’ve seen range from $4 billion to $41 billion per year, which means that eliminating these subsidies would reduce federal spending by $40 billion to $410 billion over a ten year period. While that is an awfully broad range, even the lower number would be quite significant.
But unfortunately, as an analysis done by Oil Change International and Public Campaign shows, the committee’s members are highly unlikely to even consider making big oil pay its fair share:
Eight of the twelve members of the newly-named Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have voted in the last two years to allow oil companies to keep more than $4 billion annually in taxpayer subsidies in place. All six Republicans have consistently voted to preserve oil industry handouts.
Overall, the 12 members have received $2,147,533 from Big Oil during their careers.
Of that $2.1 million dollars, more than $860,000 was given to super-committee members in the 2010 election cycle alone. As the chart below shows, that money went primarily to the six Republicans on the committee, who again, have all repeatedly voted against eliminating handouts to big oil companies:
As Matt Yglesias and Ben Schrieber have pointed out, taking a step further and implementing a carbon tax would do even more to slash the deficit. Estimates have shown that a relatively modest carbon tax would generate as much as $600 billion over a ten year period. As Ezra Klein notes, implementing a carbon tax is “preferred by many, if not most, tax-policy experts.”
In a sane world, both of these options would be given serious consideration by the super-committee. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in, so even the milder of the two — eliminating handouts to super-rich and climate-destabilizing energy companies — likely won’t even be considered.
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