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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
10 Feb 2016
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New Outrages Keep Gushing From BP


With BP's well capped and CEO Tony Hayward exiled to Russia, perhaps you thought that surely there will be no additional revelations about BP to enrage you. But now comes this: prison labor.

In its national PR blitz to buff up its image, the oil giant has loudly been boasting that it has hired devastated, out-of-work local people to handle the clean-up. Many have been hired, but the people themselves say not nearly enough. The Nation magazine now reports a big reason for the shortfall — BP has been using inmates to do much of the shoveling and scooping to remove oil from Louisiana beaches.

In the early days of the cleanup, crews suddenly appeared wearing scarlet pants and white t-shirts with bold red letters spelling out, "Inmate Labor." Investigative reporter Abe Louise Young writes that the sight of prison laborers outraged the local community, so they were removed.

Not the inmates, the uniforms. Now they wear BP shirts, jeans and rubber boots with no prison markings, and they are moved to and from the job in unmarked white vans. No officials with BP or the feds could or would tell Young how many inmates are being used or what they're being paid. However, a local sheriff's official told Young, "They're not getting paid — it's part of their sentence."

But guess who is getting paid for this convict labor? BP. It's getting paid by you and me. Under a little-known tax provision passed during the Bush regime, corporations can get a "work opportunity tax credit" of $2,400 for every work release inmate they hire.

And that's not all we're subsidizing. For example, BP, which rented the drilling rig from Transocean Corp., used a special tax break to write off 70 percent of the rent it paid. Seventy percent! This added up to a savings of $225,000 a day for BP.

Also, back in 1999, Transocean deliberately moved its corporate address offshore in order to dodge its tax obligations to our country.

It relocated from Houston to the Cayman Islands, then to Switzerland — slick moves that have allowed the giant corporation to avoid paying $1.8 billion it owed in U.S. taxes.

No industry gets the absurd array of subsidies that Big Oil now enjoys — subsidies at every stage of its operations, including the ones used by BP and Transocean to search for oil in our public waters. As one political leader put it in 2005, "With $55 oil, we don't need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore."

That was George W. Bush talking! Five years later, oil is $80 a barrel and the industry is pocketing record profits — yet the giveaways continue.

Again and again, BP has promised that it would pay all cleanup costs for the mess it made. Now, however, the British-based oil giant has quietly told investors that it expects to get a $10-billion subsidy from Uncle Sugar to help cover the costs.

Say what? Not only did the company's top executives assure us that this whole god-awful mess would be on their dime, but so did our top government officials. As President Obama flatly declared in May, "We will demand they pay for every dime they owe for the damage they have done." Even Rep. Joe Barton — the GOP gooberhead who so obsequiously apologized to BP's CEO for America's insistence that he set up a corporate fund to compensate victims — was forced to backtrack and say that, of course, he expects BP to pay the tab.

So what is this $10 billion hit on us taxpayers? It's another little corporate gotcha that lobbyists quietly got tucked into our tax code, allowing huge firms to grab a credit for up to 35-percent of their losses. The damages and cleanup being paid by BP, says one tax expert, are "just another cost of doing business," so they qualify for all applicable corporate breaks. After all, says another expert, while BP said it would pay the costs of the cleanup, it "never promised that it would not seek any deductions" to recoup those costs from American taxpayers.

Tricky, huh?

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




12 Comments | Post Comment
Great article!

H/T to Amped Status for directing me here!
Comment: #1
Posted by: MrBoompi
Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:56 AM
Just another example of American Corporate Welfare and a "society" benefiting those who can hire the best tax lawyers.

America's democracy has clearly been pirated away leaving us with a system of coporate facism. It's profits, not people that matter in present-day America.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Nadia
Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:17 PM
I find it strange when people talk about uncollected tax revenues as a problem.

It's certainly not wrong, not foolish, and not futile. Far from it.

But that's just the input side of it. Governments across the world have a notorious level of waste and duplication. The United States government is doing 70 programs to address drug abuse and 117 teenage pregnancy programs. Its departments fail to account for up to $30 billion of their expenses. Not to mention the ridiculous subsidies that this article mentions.

And then right-wing Americans talk about "cutting handouts and entitlements".

How about this - forget about raising taxes and forget about cutting welfare, and focus on cutting waste and duplication first? Then you can worry about bleeding the money away from ordinary citizens through raising taxes and cutting welfare from them, no?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Prateek Sanjay
Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:22 AM
BP's willingness to accept billions of dollars the government is determined to give them is not surprising; greed is the credo. What is tragic is the haze of indifference consuming the taxpayers. When your government is again rewarding gentry back in England and Europe with your hard-earned tax dollars for destroying your land it is time to turn off the television and get to work protecting your family and principles. What can lull people, many at one time willing to fight and die for their country, into such complacency? Is it the proliferation of pharmaceutical drugs able to erase every emotion? When your family's possessions are being divvied up by plunderers, depression and anger are natural and should not be controlled, they should be acted upon. These are not the days to reflect fondly on Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle but rather George Washington's American revolutionary forces.
Comment: #4
Posted by: jwwbrennan
Wed Aug 11, 2010 3:02 AM
What I fail to read anywhere in this article is the outrage at the government that is enabling this kind of behavior in the first place. You mention the changing of clothes on the inmates in order to hide the fact that they are inmates, but you fail to mention the fact that when President BO (yes, he stinks) went down for his photo-op, the Regime bussed in hundreds of "cleanup" workers in order to make it look like his government was doing a lot of work, then they magically disappeared later that same day when he was gone.

Let's think about something logically, which is difficult for Liberals, I know, but I'll try to move slowly out of a sense of sympathy...

If you are an organization or company that needs capital to operate, and someone or some organization is offering it up to you with little or no strings attached and no real expectation of repayment, would you not take advantage of it, regardless of your inherent moral values? If you say "no," you've never run a business or maybe don't even know what a business is... quite possible given you are a Liberal...

Now, can you begrudge BP for taking advantage of the Nanny State that has been created under the ObaMao Regime? The outrage you supposedly have for BP should be directed at your Anointed One and his Corruptocrat, Chicago style Mob tactics in government that is bold faced destroying everything that once mad America a great country. The simple fact that you don't see it, that you simply feel that "corporations are evil," a typical Libtard talking point, tells me that you are just as blinded as an infatuated lover who can't see their dearest is a con artist.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Charles
Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:16 AM
Jim - you failed to hold the current administration responsible for doing anything responsible "fix" any of the above issues associated with the $10B subsidy that BP is supposedly going to garnish. And if you have such as issue with big oil, turn off your lights, throw away your computer, stop using anything with plastic in it (including your glasses frames) and never use a petroleum product again. Once you have stopped using ANYTHING that can be traced to the petroleum industry you may get up on your soap box. Till then, shut your cakehole.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Charles
Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:15 AM
Re: Charles
All the king's horses and all the king's men could not have said it better.
Most of us in the peon class use coal-fired electricity (petroleum supplies 1.6% of America's electricity, hydro-electric comes in at 7.1%), computer chips made of silicon and we are moving to biodegradable vegetable-based plastics ( Our cake is made pretty much the same way it was in Marie Antoinette's day. I am unfamiliar with petroleum based light bulbs but I feel comfortable in assuming your anger is not fueled by light.
Comment: #7
Posted by: jwwbrennan
Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:52 AM
The CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS that locate outside the country to avoid U.S. taxes get Protection by the Pentagon worldwide of their investments, paid for by individual American taxpayers. In the meantime Alan Simpson heads a commission to put Senior on Cat food diets by reducing Social Security and medical benefits so Simpson WELFARE KINGS pay no taxes and get the benefits paid by the taxpayers whose benefit he want to cut, The Deficit Reduction Commission will not even take into consideration that it is the Treasury bonds proceeds doled out to the WELFARE KINGS that fund the Pentagons CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS.
Comment: #8
Posted by: kien lusk
Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:02 AM
So we see yet again the full costs of our over reliance on Big Oil, Gas and Coal in which these companies do not have to account for environmental and health damage in the costs of their products while having American taxpayers subsidize (pay for) their operations. Willfully ignoring and denying the full costs of what these companies produce allows them to under price their products to market which encourages vapid over consumption which results in continued record profits for Big Oil, Gas and Coal.

If one factors in the true cost of oil, gas and coal accounting for its environmental and health costs and adds in the large portions of US military spending to protect overseas oil and gas supplies, we begin to understand how we are the victims of the greed of these companies. Such under pricing dilutes and confuses our thinking that renewable energy is too expensive when it fact, once one accounts for all external costs of fossil fuel, in reality makes renewables cheaper than fossil fuels.

Under priced oil and gas just like cheap fast food which reaps massive profits for those who make these products while destroying American's health and the very economy these companies claim they support.

Just ask the people of the Gulf states who gambled their livelihoods and futures with oil giant BP and lost everything, most of them who now understand what "cheap" oil and gas really mean.

Comment: #9
Posted by: Bob Magyar
Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:31 AM
Its totall bullshyt but we're getting used to being fed bullshyt these days. Corporations are getting richer, CEO's are getting richer and therest of us are spending our savings just trying to survive. Enough is enough. I say pick up your guns and lets shut this country down and start over. Things are hopelessly broken and obviously its going to take more than words to fix this crap. Eat the rich!
Comment: #10
Posted by: James120756
Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:27 AM
We have been told over and over by the republiCON artistes and the CONservative experts on everything that letting business regulate itself would lead to prosperity. We were told under the bush junior regime that cutting taxes on the rich would lead to prosperity. We have been told again and again by the libertariCON artistes and the CONservative know it alls that the marketplace would regulate. Rules, businesses don't need no steenking rules, according to the libertariCONs and CONservative con gamers. Now where is the prosperity? Why is the Gulf of Mexico ruined? Why are miners and oil rig workers being murdered by business negligence and corner cutting? Why does tony hayward have his life back instead of being under arrest? It is time to get the corporations, marketeering liars and business bigwigs under control. This country does not exist for profit or business to run wild over the rest of us. They need to be held accountable and under control. They are worse than gangbangers. No more welfare for business.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Harry Canary
Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:09 PM
We get it Charles. You love BP more than your country and countrymen. Now stfu. The country has been on this road since Nixon. It didn't just magically fall to shit because Sotero got elected.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Bobomcfadden
Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:59 PM
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