To the Editor:
Demanding oil company tax records represents the sort of populist political nonsense I expect from Hugo Chavez, not Charles Grassley. The GOP must be worried about how gas prices will affect upcoming elections. They want to be seen as ‘doing something about it’ despite the fact these prices are determined by a very competitive market, not government, industry, or even OPEC.
Oil companies have smaller profit margins than many other businesses such as banks or pharmaceuticals, and it is only the chance for profit that leads them to provide oil and gas for us to buy. Attacking profits is economic suicide.
Oil companies should use this ill-conceived witch hunt to point out that only three times in the past 30 years (and never in the past 20) have oil industry profits exceeded governments’ tax revenue from oil and gas. Instead of looking at ExxonMobil’s tax return, let’s look at Uncle Sam’s income statement and see who is really making a killing off oil.
Ross Kaminsky is a fellow of The Heartland Institute.