Friday, November 4, 2022



Look, I’m a capitalist. You’ve heard me say this before: I have no problem with corporations turning a fair profit or getting the return on their investment and innovation. But this isn’t remotely what’s happening. Oil companies’ record profits today are not because they’re doing something new or innovative. Their profits are a windfall of war - the windfall from the brutal conflict that’s ravaging Ukraine and hurting tens of millions of people around the globe. You know, at a time of war, any company receiving historic windfall profits like this has a responsibility to act beyond their narrow self-interest of its executives and shareholders. I think they have a responsibility to act in the interest of their consumers, their community, and their country; to invest in America by increasing production and refining capacity. Because they - they don’t want to do that. They - they have the opportunity to do that - lowering prices for consumers at the pump. You know, if they don’t, they’re going to pay a higher tax on their excess profits and face other restrictions. My team will work with Congress to look at these op- - these options that are available to us and others. It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering, meet their responsibilities to this country, and give the American people a break and still do very well.


President Biden delivered these fiery remarks one week before the midterm elections. “Shell announced that it made $9.5 billion in profits for the third quarter... Exxon's profits for the third quarter were at $18.7 billion... In the last six months, six of the largest oil companies have made more than $100 billion.” Biden repeated each figure twice for emphasis, projecting his abject disbelief.

While I was pleasantly surprised to hear the President of the United States uttering the words “war profiteering,” I couldn’t help but think of the boy who cried wolf parable. Which government has this man been serving in for the last 50 years?

After more than two decades of war profiteering inextricably linked to oil and gas extraction and delivery, the President’s cry treats transnational energy giants as if they are simple end product resellers whose worst crime is price gouging their consumers.

And the solution he is proposing sadly seems to toe the oil industry line, strategically deflecting Republican “critique” of his administration’s policies onto the industry itself – refine more oil, produce more gas! But this is circular nonsense. In the midst of an ongoing decades long geo-political pissing match over who will provide “essential” energy resources (whose currency and economy will profit), the obvious answer is, the only real answer is, get off the pipe... um... oil.

Here is what’s missing: there is no actual shortage of oil and gas driving up prices.

The apparent scarcity is a supply and demand sleight of hand manipulation on the part of the oil and gas industry to validate their inflated prices. They’re not even being covert about this. They just keep hammering their absurdist narrative that prices are up because they can’t drill for oil everywhere and anywhere they want (with absolute impunity and government subsidy). And the Republicans are all too happy to parrot this false narrative – drill baby drill.

As the neoliberals (and the neocons) like to say, how did our oil get under their soil? Let’s be clear, no one is war profiteering from energy sources that cannot be horded and controlled. No one is bombing anyone, or seizing their land, overthrowing their democratically elected government, etc. to capture their abundant sunshine and wind. Dare I say it? This all goes away with a shift to renewables. Yet another reason to leave it in the soil. As if a mass extinction event wasn’t enough.

I am always impressed by the neoliberal mastery of the qualifying statement. “It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering...” Only these companies?


 The bulk of the benefits from U.S. arms sales go to just four companies — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics. Of the $101 billion in major arms offers since the Biden administration took office, $59.1 billion — over 58 percent — involved weapons systems produced by one of these four companies.”

Promoting Stability or Fueling Conflict? The Impact of U.S. Arms Sales on National and Global SecurityWilliam D. Hartung



So am I supposed to be excited that the president is threatening Big Oil with a windfall tax, that will in all likelihood never come to pass? Will the righteousness of reclaiming this blood money inspire me into the voting booth? Well, no, but I don’t need inspiration from my pal Biden* to get my ass into the voting booth. Democrats are pretty relentless when it comes to pointing out that our rights, our very democracy, is on the line – every DCCC & DNC fund raising missive tells me as much. That said, I would encourage everyone who can vote, to go vote, because the margins matter.

Watching Lula win the Brazilian election by just under 2% reminded me how important it is to keep moving forward, even when the prevailing narratives tell you otherwise. There is no doubt in my mind that rampant voter suppression by the outgoing Brazilian cabal was meant to close the margin enough to call the election into question, even if they could not win outright. We have seen this tactic employed in election after election here in the United States. Lest we forget the 2000 election debacle that proved the strategy’s viability.

In the US, voter turnout is rarely upwards of 60% (and far lower in the midterms) and this number is split by a two party system, essentially 30/30. That leaves 40% who are NOT voting, an invisible “majority...”

The 50/50 polarization narrative is a convenient crutch for tyrants who want to question the will of the people, and it must be understood as such. Put plainly, voter suppression is not something the majority needs to engage in to win in a democracy. The 50/50 narrative is also very useful in keeping any potential challengers, so called “spoilers,” out of the political debate.

Perhaps we could take a lesson from Brazil: make voting mandatory, make election day a national holiday, or simply try a runoff voting system so that we can build a bit more democracy, rather than ceaselessly struggling to protect the little we are allowed to have.

Allowing ourselves to be distracted by the constant barrage of conflict narratives, arguing over which horse will win the race, has us going in circles back to the same starting line again and again. Politicians can pay lip service to our hopes and fears without ever addressing what it is we might actually want. Consoling and comforting us in our misery (or stoking the fires of blame and hatred) isn’t much of a campaign promise, but it’s all they got. Winning the argument gets you nowhere if you have nowhere to go.

In the most recent Star Wars iteration, there is a surprisingly compelling depiction of the Empire imprisoning its citizens in a labor camp to build what appear to be weapons. It occurs to me that the depiction could be intended as allegory for Amazon or Foxconn. I couldn’t help but wonder if watching the show would make viewers more comfortable with such things, rather than forcing them to confront the absolute horror of slave labor. So, yes, let’s move boldly into our shared future, with an awareness that allowing the media and the political pundits to define our demons for us, to cry wolf as it were, could get us eaten in the end.


*Your pal Biden is how my father (my “Political advisor”) would laughingly refer to then Senator Biden. The moniker comes from a discussion we had regarding the so called Rave Act back when Biden was sponsoring that oppressive puritanical nonsense. Today is my dad’s 85th birthday, this piece is dedicated to him. I could hear him laughing as I wrote it.


Related articles:
Biden Accuses Oil Companies of ‘War Profiteering’ and Threatens Windfall Tax
Peter Baker and
The Biden Administration’s Business-As-Usual Arms Sales Policy Is Undermining National and Global Security
– Jessica Rosenblum
Andor is a Star Wars story where the Emperor does not matter