Is it 'un-American' to cut oil subsidies?

That's the position of ConocoPhillips, one of the world's biggest, most profitable oil companies. Of course, not everyone is buying it

Oil derricks pump for gas
(Image credit: Joho/CORBIS)

President Obama and the Democrats want to repeal $4.4 billion in annual U.S. tax breaks for the biggest oil companies — a proposal that one of those companies, ConocoPhillips, called "un-American" in a press release this week. That didn't sit well with Senate Democrats, who grilled ConocoPhillps CEO Jim Mulva and other Big Oil bosses on Thursday. Does ending tax subsidies for five companies that earned a combined $36 billion in profit in the first quarter really violate American values?

It's Big Oil that's being unpatriotic: "Soaring prices at the pump, and a sharp rise in oil profits, make this as good a time as any to take Big Oil off welfare," says the New Jersey Star-Ledger in an editorial. Most of these handouts were written into law eons ago, and they make even less sense in a time of shared belt-tightening. The only thing "un-American" here is Big Oil's threat that ending the subsidies will raise gas prices. Research says otherwise.

"Dems' plan to end Big Oil subsidies could free funds to reduce deficit"

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Actually, Mulva was right: "Most of the Senate Finance Committee has been un-American for years," and it's great that someone finally called them on it, says Amy Ridenour in her National Center for Public Policy Research blog. "Mulva comes from a part of America that still believes in equality under the law," and the Democrats' plan to raise taxes on certain oil firms and not others isn't fair. It is, as Mulva rightly states, "fundamentally un-American."

"Three cheers for Jim Mulva... who stood up and fought"

These handouts barely affect Big Oil's bottom line: I'll tell you what's un-American, says Elmer Smith in the Philadelphia Daily News. "It's un-American for a guy like Mulva, who made $50 million last year, to claim that losing $4 billion a year in tax breaks would hurt his industry more than it helps his country." I'm glad Big Oil is making big profits, and they'll go on doing what they're doing, "with or without American subsidies."

"It's time these drilling tax breaks went the way of the dinosaur"

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