Thursday, May 29, 2008

Van Os Speaks About $4 Gas

The venerable David Van Os has written a piece on $4.00 a gallon gasoline and the corporate-government complex. As usual, he says it better than I could hope to, so I will just shut up and give you his words:

This very moment, millions of Texans are struggling to find ways to stretch their paychecks and retirement checks to cover $3.80 per gallon gasoline. This very moment, local governments are struggling to balance budgets in the face of ever-rising fuel costs. This very moment, independent business owners are struggling to keep their businesses afloat in light of the ever-increasing cost of fuel. This very moment, independent farmers and ranchers are struggling to stay alive in the face of fuel costs that keep going up. This very moment, food prices are spiraling out of control due to the shock waves of high fuel costs. This very moment, truckers find it more and more difficult to meet the expenses of keeping the geographical and economic fabrics stitched together.

But some people are making out just fine.

Exxon-Mobil's net profit for 2007 was 40 billion dollars and the profits have continued to rise in 2008. The other Big Oil giants are not far behind. Surprise, surprise -- 3 billion dollars a month wasn't enough profit. But the price at the gasoline pump keeps going up on the path to $4 per gallon and beyond at the same time that profits keep rising to these ever more unimaginable levels. This equation doesn't balance.

It is a fact of history and economics that the consolidation of great economic power into too few sets of hands inevitably results in the exercise of monopoly power and control. The continuing mergers of giant oil companies that began in the late 1990s have resulted in such consolidation to staggering degrees. We the people are witnessing the proof coming out in the pudding.

The oil company executives and their political lackeys want us to think that magical, mysterious market forces are in charge and nobody has any control over the situation. Yeah, right -- Exxon-Mobil is a mere bystander to both its $3.5 billion-per-month profits and $3.80-per-gallon gasoline, and cries all the way to the bank. Don't we all know that the corporate executives wish they could rebate some of the profits back to the consumers, but that they are forced by "the market" to gouge us against their wishes?

Here in Texas, our cultural roots stand solidly against monopoly power. The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution declares in Article 1, Section 26 that monopolies are contrary to the genius of free government and shall never be allowed. Texas was the second political jurisdiction in the world to enact an anti-trust statute -- in the 1880s, a decade before the U.S. Congress passed federal anti-trust legislation. That first Texas anti-trust law was drafted by then-attorney general James Stephen Hogg, one of the great people's lawyers to occupy that office, who needed it and used it to challenge and beat the railroad barons on behalf of the people of Texas.

The creation of monopoly power does not create jobs. The last 25 years' worth of corporate consolidations throughout all sectors of industry have resulted in continuing losses of good jobs as the newly merged entities proceed to downsize their workforces in order to pay for the mergers and acquisitions. For example, over 9,000 jobs were lost when Exxon and Mobil merged to create Exxon-Mobil in 1999.

Monopolization smothers free enterprise by eliminating competition. Free enterprise, both for workers and for independent business owners, requires competition in order to survive and prosper. Confronting the robber barons over their monopolization of markets and industries by taking action to revive competition would take us a long way toward the revival of lost jobs and resuscitation of the gasping middle class.

But where is the political will? Too many of today's politicians accept the robber barons' excuses and double-talk without question, because too many of today's politicians have been purchased by bucketfuls of protection money in the form of campaign contributions.

As he was leaving office in January 1961, former President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the military-industrial complex. If Eisenhower were alive today, he would probably be appalled to see that what he called the military-industrial complex has morphed beyond what even he feared, to become the corporate-government complex of today that pollutes our Founding Fathers' vision of democracy at virtually every level.

David Van Os

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