The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

If I Had A Hammer…

In BP Oil Spill, Idiocracy, Obstructionism, Politics on July 28, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Exactly one hundred days ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.  The devastation has been well-chronicled, although our friends at ProjectGulfImpact.org have uncovered even more harrowing facts that the mainstream media has not even touched (no surprise). The Donkey Edge highlighted some of their work here.

Now comes word that the sweethearts at BP will be adding insult to injury, writing a cool $9.9 billion off their taxes this year due to losses directly related to the spill. And how did they get that sweet perk? By claiming the IRS tax codes will let them.

Russ Britt of MarketWatch broke the story yesterday:

The oil giant [BP] said Tuesday that it is incurring a charge of $32.2 billion from the Deepwater Horizon disaster response, and as such, it is claiming a $9.9 billion taxation credit.

Asked in a conference call Tuesday about whether it has discussed the tax credit with President Barack Obama’s administration, BP’s outgoing chief executive, Tony Hayward said: “We have followed the IRS regulations as they’re currently written.”

And how did they arrive at the $9.9 billion figure? Well, my guess is that $9.9 billion sure sounds a lot better than $10 billion. BP is in the wrong business. They should be in retail.

I can destroy the Gulf Coast for only $99.95.

It is also half of the amount BP pledged to put in escrow to help pay for the mess it created. Coincidence? I think not. And why would BP do this? Michael Corkery of The Wall Street Journal has a guess:

For BP, the roughly $10 billion deduction is part of its strategy to keep the company’s cash flowing.

But don’t cry yourselves to sleep at night worrying about BP. They also assured investors that their 2nd quarter cash-flow rose 31% over last year to $8.9 billion. That’s if you forget about those pesky oil spill costs, which I’m sure we all have.

The Earl Scheib of oil men

Of course, this entire ecological, economic, and human tragedy will have a silver lining, right? Perhaps a usually sclerotic Senate will leap into action, passing tough climate legislation, curbing corporate influence, and eliminating billions in subsidies for the oil industry.

Here’s the scorecard.

In June, the Senate voted down a proposal by Bernie Sanders that would have eliminated $35 billion in government subsidies to Big Oil and funneled that money into deficit reduction and fund state energy efficiency programs. The vote was 35-61, with 21 Democrats siding with the Republicans.

Last week, the cap and trade bill that would have helped curb greenhouse emissions was set aside by the Senate.

And yesterday, the Republicans voted to filibuster the Disclose Act, which would been the first step in undoing the horrible Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.

Like you, I am growing increasingly tired of a Senate that rends their garments, gnashes their teeth, and flagellates themselves…

And does absolutely nothing about anything.

Especially when we have Very Serious People like Olympia Snowe (a so-called moderate) who constantly calls for caution in the face of every looming crisis. The New York Times quotes her thoughts on the recently defeated Disclose Act:

“I know that the new routine for legislating these days is to ram and jam, but these issues deserve time,” said Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, who Democrats had hoped would support the bill.

She also said the same thing about health care reform:

“We shouldn’t be restrained by an artificially compressed timeline,” said the Maine moderate, pointing out that with estimated costs of $2.4 trillion, health care comprises 17% of the US gross domestic product, so reforming health care is a “Herculean challenge.”

“It’s important to us to take time to work through these issues,” Snowe said.

Perhaps she only reads at a third-grade level and needs more time to digest the complexities of the law or maybe she’s just another Republican obstructionist who can’t pull herself away from the money trough. It’s a tough call.

Sen. Olympia Snowe rends her garments to prove how serious she is

But sadly, she’s not alone. I know that the Senate is supposed to be “the cooling saucer of democracy.” But to that I say:

Get me hammer.

-SF

UPDATE: Jerry Markon of The Washington Post is reporting that federal investigators, known as the “BP squad,” have opened up a wide-ranging criminal probe of BP, Transocean, and Halliburton for potential violations of environmental laws, obstruction of justice, falsified test results, as well as bribery, insider trading, and other “securities matters.” Here’s an excerpt:

One emerging line of inquiry, sources said, is whether inspectors for the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency charged with regulating the oil industry — which is itself investigating the disaster — went easy on the companies in exchange for money or other inducements.

[…]

In an additional avenue of inquiry, BP disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday that the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into “securities matters” relating to the spill, although no more details were included.

[…]

One law enforcement official said criminal investigators will look for evidence that MMS inspectors were bribed or promised industry jobs in exchange for lenient treatment. “Every instinct I have tells me there ought to be numerous indictable cases in that connection between MMS and the industry,” said this official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is unfolding.

It’s good to see someone in the government bringing the hammer down on corporate malfeasance, even while the Senate continues to sit idly by and wet the bed.

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