War on Business

From Media Matters: Fox’s Kilmeade Presents Disputed Oil Industry-Provided Tax Stat As “Fact”

Every single time I watch Fox and Friends in the morning I hear a number of things that make me want to take to my laptop in protest. Sadly, I rarely have time. Thankfully, Media Matters exists for just such a purpose. From Media Matters, here is more evidence of Fox News being the media arm for the super rich and corporate America.

This week MM highlighted a segment where Brian Kilmeade essentially shilled for the oil industry, stating the oil companies pay a much higher effective tax rate than other companies. Fox News presents this is a fact. It isn’t.

The mere fact that Kilmeade’s data was provided by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, should cast some shadow of doubt on the veracity of the claim at face value.

Kilmeade is defending the oil companies against President Obama’s attempt to close the loopholes.

This graph shows the difference between what the oil companies say they pay and what Citizens for Tax Justice say they pay.

Apparently, co-host Gretchen Carlson later bemoaned the fact that President Obama might find public support for legislative efforts to roll back oil and gas company tax subsidies, complaining that the public wouldn’t “dig deep to find out all the stuff that Brian just said.

Someone should remind Gretchen that an actively engaged Fox News viewer would undermine the mission.

See the whole Media Matters story here.

Agree or Disagree: Occupy Wall Street Starts the Discussion

The Occupy Wall Street Protests have been the subject of a vigorous family discussion at all recent family gatherings. At Thanksgiving my left-leaning nuclear family was divided on how we felt about the protests. At pre-Christmas brunch we added my “not at all left-leaning” Uncle and Ron Paul loving cousin, threw in a pitcher of Bloody Mary and watched the sparks fly.But one idea we all agree on is that the current system heavily favors those with a lot of money, at the expense of everyone else, and that is bad.

And given the fact that 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty and another 97.3 million Americans are defined as low-income, it is hard not to think that America is becoming that great party that most people can’t get in to. Find the census data here.

"Corporations are people, my friend...everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people."

When looking at the popular uprisings fueled by extreme economic inequality around the world, from the Arab Spring to Europe, it is hard not to think we are heading towards an “American Crossroad.” (Irony intended). The percentage of Americans living in poverty represents a high last seen in 1965. Meanwhile, corporations, and the people therein, are raking in record profits. According to the (right-leaning) USA Today, that is expected to continue:

While growth expectations may be subsiding, investors are still expecting record profits. Even if profit next year increases by 8.7%, that’s still going to represent extremely strong, and record, corporate profits.

Keep in mind the median household income, adjusted for inflation, dipped below $50,000 in 2010 ($49,445). The rising tide is not lifting all boats.

The national median income has hovered in the $40-$50k range since 1965. The income of the top 1% has exploded.

The one point my family all seem to agree on was that the OWS protests give voice to the reality that most of the “99%” feel great frustration at “the system” being controlled by corporate interests. Having an obscene amount of money to spend on influencing elected officials allows a small number of people to make government work for their benefit. The rest of us are at the mercy of those who can buy influence with a small army of lobbyists.

Tommy and Gina may be down on their luck, but Jon Bon Jovi made $125 million last year (according to Forbes).

This results in some pretty ridiculous government policies. Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, published a report called Subsidies of the Rich and Famous.

“From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

Grover Norquist responded to Coburn’s report by accusing Coburn of “trying to get on President Obama’s losing class-warfare argument.” 

Class Warfare

Fox News has walked a fine line between “class warfare” and “populist outrage.”

This “class warfare” idea is the black arrow in the Republican quiver, convincing people to support policies that run counter to their economic self-interest.

Fox enthusiastically criticizes liberal celebrities for receiving subsidies for raising honeybees or “hobby farming.” (A recent Newsweek article named Bon Jovi and Scottie Pippen among a list of celebrity millionaires who availed themselves of federal dollars to subsidize their side hobbies. Billionaires David Rockefeller and Ted Turner have accepted over $500,000 in farm subsidies).

But they conveniently ignore the wealthy Conservatives who also belong on that list, including Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann. Fox News employee Sarah Palin accepted $1.2 million in government subsidies to film her reality show. Palin actually benefitted from a government program that she signed into law in 2008 when she was governor.

But the main point here, whether you identify with OWS or the Tea Party, people are angry at the unfairness of it all.

The Oil and Gas Industry Illustrates the Point

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer (R) is running for President. His number one platform is fighting the corrupting influences in Wall Street and Washington, ending favors to big donors and the misuse of federal funds to benefit major corporations that take jobs overseas while they evade taxes in America.

Taxpayers for Common Sense published a report on the billions of subsidies given to the oil and gas industries. Since the start of the 2002 election cycle, the oil and gas industry has donated $138.7 million to the campaigns of elected officials in Washington. Keep in mind that, as of October 2011, the five biggest oil companies made $101 billion in profits.

CEO of Chevron J.S. Watson made over $16.2 million in 2010. According to the AFL-CIO the median income for a worker at Chevron was $33,000, which means the CEO made 480 times the median income. I wonder whether Mr. J.S. Watson could forgo his government subsidy and survive a little belt tightening.

Mr. Watson might look down the road with envy at Exxon CEO R. W. Tillerson, who received almost $29 million in total compensation in 2010. Again, the median income for an Exxon worker was $33,840. Mr. Tillerson made 855 times the median worker’s pay.

Now, I am all for CEOs being rich. The CEO should make a lot more money than the workers. But why does the government need to subsidize these guys? Do we really need to layoff teachers, firemen and cops so we can continue to subsidize the millions of J.S. Watson and R.W. Tillerson?

It is enough to make you want to grab your sleeping bag and occupy someplace. Or at least to give the candidacy of Buddy Roemer a real look.

Fox News Asks: Is Obama Anti-Business?

If by anti-business you mean creating an environment where corporations and banks can record record profits and stave off any meaningful regulation that might protect workers or the environment or save tax payers from the existing model of privatized profits and socialized risk, then yes, Obama is anti-business.

But watch Fox News for any amount of time and you will hear various refrains about how President Obama is some kind of America-hating socialist determined to undermine capitalism.  They peddle myths that American corporations need tax breaks and repatriation holidays to create jobs. Any proposed government regulation of the financial sector is evidence of Obama’s “War of Business.” The fact that President Obama is not falling over himself to give more breaks to corporations and Wall Street banks means he is an anti-business socialist.

Obama has not exactly been a champion of the 99%, but don’t try telling that to Jim DeMint. DeMint says, “No American President is more anti-business than Obama.” See DeMint appearing on Fox News.

Here is another video that is worth watching, where Fox News Business anchor Stu Varney brings on BusinessWeek’s Jane Sasseen for a segment subtly titled “Is President Obama Anti-Business?.”

Unfortunately for Varney, Ms. Sasseen seems to have slipped through the Fox News pundit vetting process, because she does not stick to the prescribed narrative.

To Varney’s obvious dismay, Sasseen clearly states that after sitting down to meet with the President she has determined that Obama is, in fact, not anti-business.

The Fox News/Republican refrain that Obama is anti-business is a little hard to understand in light of the numbers. The Washington Post reported this week that capitalism seems to be doing just fine under President Obama. In fact, Wall Street banks are making record profits.

The point of the Washington Post article is that Stu Varney, Fox News and the host of Republican presidential hopefuls are ignoring an “inconvenient fact.”

During Obama’s tenure, Wall Street has roared back, even as the broader economy has struggled.

Wall Street securities firms have made $83 billion in the first 2 and 1/2 years of the “anti-business” Obama administration. They made $77 billion in 8 years under pro-business administration of George W. Bush.

To read the full Washington Post article click here.

Somehow there seems to be a Fox News watching segment of America that is impervious to facts and data. Though given what happened in Ohio this week, maybe that contingent is shrinking.