Note: Public Citizen runs U.S. Chamberwatch, a project designed to shed light on the funding and practices of the largest private interest lobbyist in America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue today delivered his annual State of American Business address. As he paints a fantastical picture of the unfair burdens imposed on Big Business, Donohue neglects to mention a few things, most importantly, that corporate profits are at record highs.
Of course, there’s nothing surprising here, since he gives pretty much the same speech every year. Still, a few comments are in order.
First, isn’t it a bit much for the rich and powerful to endlessly call for cutbacks in the nation’s leading anti-poverty programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? If Tom Donohue is concerned about the government’s fiscal situation, perhaps he should acknowledge the unreasonably low effective tax rate on corporations. Or declare that it’s outrageous for two dozen profitable Fortune 500 companies to pay zero in federal income tax in the past four years.
Second, he whines about a “coming flood of new regulations,” even as we still suffer from the Great Recession, a direct outgrowth of too little regulation and enforcement. This complaint comes despite no evidence that regulation meaningfully impedes job growth and despite lots of evidence that regulation protects and creates new jobs (not to mention making jobs safer, better paid and equitability available).
Third, he urges more NAFTA-style trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-on-steroids that would encumber every country on the Pacific Rim. This call will come despite an abundance of evidence that this trade model has cost jobs, lowered living standards and undermined our sovereign ability to set our own safety and health protections.
Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas
Flickr by chesbayprogram
Lisa Jackson has been a good EPA administrator and will be missed. Her courage has been evident in many different arenas from climate policy, tougher particle standards, automobile fuel efficiency standards and power plant pollution limits.
She has often been frustrated by the Obama administration’s cowardice on critical policies, such as long overdue ozone standards.
Public Citizen hopes that the Obama administration will appoint someone with as much courage as Lisa Jackson to lead the EPA.
The next EPA administrator must deal with climate change and the White House must have the administrator’s back.
Tom “Smitty” Smith is the director of Public Citizen Texas.
We’re stunned. This settlement is pathetic. The $4 billion penalty is equivalent to just a fifth of the company’s 2011 profits.
The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and to deter. This does neither. It is a weak-tea punishment that provides zero deterrence to BP or other companies. Consider that after the 2005 Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 people, BP pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid a fine. Now, after a 2010 event that killed 11 people, BP is again pleading guilty and paying a fine. Zero deterrence.
Although the government is right to pursue manslaughter charges against two individuals BP employees, the settlement is inadequate to address BP’s repeated criminal conduct.
The government must impose more meaningful sanctions. Nothing in this settlement stops BP from continuing to get federal contracts and leases. BP will earn more in annual federal contracts than it will pay in penalties as a result of this. That’s appalling.
Below is earlier statement made just prior to announcement:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly has reached a multibillion-dollar settlement with BP in which the company will plead guilty only to obstruction of justice for lying to Congress in the disaster’s aftermath. The reports suggest that DOJ will not pursue criminal charges against BP for the events that led to the April 20, 2010, disaster. While civil violations of the Clean Water Act are still pending against the company after this settlement, the lack of criminal sanctions for conduct up to April 20 would be a defeat for the communities and families harmed by the disaster. The single criminal charge is inadequate; remember that two BP subsidiaries were under criminal indictment at the time of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Claims arising from the Gulf disaster, which killed 11 workers and did untold damage, puts the company’s liability at a minimum of $51.5 billion.
Come one, come all. Gather ’round for a pair of misguided tours touting the benefits of fracking, one organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the other by the American Petroleum Institute.
The Big Business mouthpieces are hosting a series of rallies and spending millions in political advertising in – what a shock – key election swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, urging the Obama administration to do more to promote hydraulic fracturing. But the Chamber must have been too busy flapping its jowls to read today’s Wall Street Journal story (and others) describing how major natural gas producers are posting disappointing returns and even losses because – get this – there’s too much natural gas production already. Case in point: The U.S. recently surpassed Russia as the leading natural gas producer on the planet.
Not only is the surplus more than our market can consume, it is more than our atmosphere can handle. Advances in extraction technologies are allowing big polluters to get to resources that once seemed out of reach. That may mean short-term profits for the gas and oil industry but, for the rest of us, it means adjusting to the painful realities of climate change. Pushing the fracking agenda is bad business any way you look at it.
This proves that the Chamber is pushing a political, rather than a business, agenda. This is particularly the case as the Chamber dismisses genuine environmental and public health concerns associated with fracking as pandering to Obama’s “environmental voter base.” How cynical can you get: a corporate trade association dismissing genuine grassroots concerns about water contamination, and increased emissions from wells and trucks? Shame on the Chamber: There is no such thing as benign fossil fuel extraction. There are real impacts on real people living across America, many of whom are organizing this weekend in the first national rally against fracking. The Chamber’s dismissal of their concerns as political pandering is offensive.
A sound energy plan is one that would empower Main Street communities to take the lead on sustainable energy independence through the promotion of rooftop solar, energy efficiency incentives, mass transit and other job-creating clean energy investments.
Maybe it’s best for the Chamber to give its advertising expenditures to charity and leave energy policy to those who actually know what they’re talking about.
You might think that the declining price of gasoline means that we don’t have to pay attention to all that talk about oil speculation driving up the price of oil. Right?
Even though the price of gas has fallen, you’re still lining the pockets of Wall Street every time you gas up. As Memorial Day approaches and summer driving season kicks off, remember that speculators will clean up even as the price of oil drops.
It’s a rigged game, with rules that make you give your hard-earned money to financiers no matter what. It’s like the bully on the playground who established the ground rules for a coin toss game as “heads I win, tails you lose.” Under those rules, the bully always wins.
In this case, the bully is Wall Street. With oil markets, loose rules allow speculators – not end users – to dominate the volume of trading, increasing price volatility and making more money the more the price changes – whether that price is going up or down.
Goldman Sachs has admitted that speculation adds as much as $23.39 per barrel to the price of crude. That translates to 56 cents per gallon. (See here if you want confirmation.)
So, we pay more. They get richer. And it has little to do with actual supply and demand.
You would think that since speculators can legally game the system, they wouldn’t need to resort to fraud or illegal manipulation. But last year, federal regulators charged five oil speculators with manipulating the price of oil in the early months of 2008 and making a $50 million profit from the scheme.