Do oil companies need help?

I don’t hate oil companies. Gulf Oil gave my dad a job near the end of the Great Depression. Gulf and 40 years of hard work by my family allowed me to have a wonderful education.

What I am having a hard time understanding is why Republicans are so reluctant to make big oil pay its fair share. Tax breaks from Texas amount to more than $20 million a year. Some of the refiners in Texas are suing to get even bigger tax breaks. Our U.S. tax system gives British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Shell and others millions more.

While middle-class Americans are finding it harder and harder to make it, conservatives in Congress, the Tea Party and Republicans in general seem hell bent on making life more profitable and easy for corporate America and the mega-rich.

Quarterly reports from the oil companies show record profits. This is particularly true for ExxonMobil, whose profit is 40 percent higher than the last report. Its profit for the recently completed quarter is about $10.6 billion. Other oil company reports show similar results. I have trouble understanding how a small tax increase on these companies would be so harmful. Couldn’t ExxonMobil still be a viable company making only $9.6 billion in a quarter?

Another mystery to me is why the excuse for increased cost of gasoline is always that the cost of crude is up. If the cost of crude requires the oil companies to increase prices at the pump on us, how is it that every time crude prices increase, corporate profits increase?

There are many reasons for my belief that big oil companies are not paying their fair share. First of all, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elected officials. Members of the Tea Party and Republican pundits seem to have an extraordinary fear that undocumented workers from Mexico are ruining our country. I have never heard a Republican express any concern over how many directors or shareholders of corporations are non-Americans. With the Supreme Court ruling, non-Americans through corporate action can have far more impact on our nation than all the undocumented workers.

Republicans like Rick Perry, in their worship of big money, are ready to not only give big oil tax breaks but also give other advantages to the detriment of ordinary folks. We’re not only gouged at the pump, but our environment pays a dear price by being at constant risk from drilling and production. The quality of our air is certainly not improved by the refining process, making the air we breathe less pure and the water we drink of lesser quality. Recent events with British Petroleum and the Gulf of Mexico demonstrate just how fragile our environment can be.

Any corporate director will quickly tell you a corporate board’s No. 1 objective is to make a profit for the shareholders. I have never heard a corporate officer mention loyalty to America.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety.