Tag: accountability

Big Oil Subsidies Squeeze the Middle Class

by David T. Bruce

oil_earthIn a recent Congressional debate, the majority of Republicans argued that the five largest oil companies were entitled to a $2 billion annual subsidy to offset the $35 billion they earned (?) in the first quarter of 2011.  One particular senator sarcastically stated that making money in America must now be unacceptable, specifically targeting the Democrats’ proposal to eliminate these subsidies.

According to a recent article in The Washington Times, wages in America are up 1.7%, whereas the rate of inflation is up 2%.  Statistically, households with the lowest income in the United States spend approximately twice as much on food, relatively speaking, as households with the highest income.  Obviously, the dramatic increase in the cost of fuel limits the spending power of the average American.  It is estimated that the tax cuts recently approved by Congress will be absorbed by the increased cost of gasoline.  Yes, apparently making money in America is indeed no longer acceptable . . . unless you live and work on Capitol Hill or unless you are a CEO or COO of the aforementioned oil companies.

Recent polls show that public opinion in favor of Congress is significantly low.  According to recent Gallup polls, Congress has achieved an approval rating as low as 13% over the past year.  If this is indeed the case, then perhaps as a society, we should consider placing more emphasis on the state representatives we elect and less emphasis on the executive office that is often provided with speed bumps and road blocks by the opposing party anyway.  We must give careful consideration and close scrutiny to those people we elect at the state level, who are charged to represent the interest of their constituents.  Right now, many representatives seem to represent only the interests of the oil companies (and other major industries) and by extension their own individual interests, forsaking the interests of those that elected them to office. For example: the only three Democrats to side with the Republicans in the Oil Subsidy vote were from Louisiana, Nebraska, and Alaska, all big oil states.

The greater majority of the voting public has not made a substantial living in years.  While our government bails out the banking industry and subsidizes the oil industry, that which is left of the middle class struggles daily to raise a family and support their communities, as they slowly merge with the lower class.  How can the majority of Republicans dare to compare the plight of the average American with that of the incomparable benefits that the corporate giants enjoy with the blessings of Congress?

In fairness to Congress, we as a society share a measure of responsibility in creating this dependence on fuel.  Many Americans insist on the value of SUVs, 4X4 pickup trucks, and similar gas-guzzling automotive apparatuses.  We are not sending the message that we care about fuel consumption, fuel waste, or the environment.  We continue to put money into the coffers of the oil industry instead of alternative energy sources.  We continue to pursue off-shore drilling instead of cultivating wind farms or solar power.  We can respond to the oil companies by supporting alternate energy options, and we can respond to our representatives by sending them home.  Maybe then they will understand what it really means to not make money in America.

Domestic Nonlethal Assistance Repealed

by David T. Bruce

discretionary-spending-2011
Source: Mother Jones

As a society, we may have become numb to the reality that we have spent almost ten years in the Middle East, engaged in conflicts with Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now we find that we are compelled to join NATO in support of Libyan rebels.  To support our troops (an admirable incentive) and our habit, billions of dollars must be allocated for defense.

According to information provided by the National Journal, the Pentagon has requested $708.3 billion for this year, including $159.3 billion to continue our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During the first day of operation in Libya, the United States spent approximately $100 million.  Following the initial attacks on the forces of Colonel Gaddifi, we have recently pledged additional military assistance by sending armed drone aircraft into Libya.  This amounts to an additional $25 million of “nonlethal” [really?] military assistance.

At the same time, our representatives want to eliminate $1 trillion from the Medicaid program over the next ten years, or $84 billion a year.  This suggests that much of the money once used for healthcare in the United States is to be reallocated to support the habits of the Pentagon.

We have money enough to send “nonlethal” assistance to foreign countries, while we simultaneously propose cutbacks in what our representatives call “entitlements.”  The result of denying the disabled, elderly, and low-income citizens of America from having these “entitlements” is indeed lethal.  Apparently, saving lives of citizens in other countries is humane, while saving the lives of Americans at home is an entitlement.  Yes, we need to make changes to the Medicaid (and Medicare) programs, but perhaps the fault of the misuse or abuse is less of an indictment against the patients.

It is remarkable and yet interesting to journey down Constitution Avenue in Washington D. C.  Observe and take note of the buildings that line either side of the street: the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the National Museum of Natural History, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Commerce, the National Aquarium, the Federal Reserve, the Albert Einstein Memorial, and . . . the American Pharmaceutical Association? . . . yes, the American Pharmaceutical Association.

Is it possible that the problem is not abuse of the system by the patients and more of an abuse of the system by providers and pharmaceutical companies?  Many incidents may be cited in which service was provided for no reason other than the bill was covered by Medicaid.  The cost of medication is on the rise, and I question whether or not pressure is being put on the pharmaceutical companies to keep their costs down.  Instead, patients are targeted.  At some point, voters must realize that our elected representatives lobby for large businesses when they should be lobbying for their constituents.

Love It or Leave It

For whatever the reason, we the people have been negligent in upholding our end of the Constitution. We have a right – and a duty – to speak out. When we become fearful of doing so, we need to take a long look at our leaders and how they govern. We need to reestablish jurisdiction over our elected officials.

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