Joe Barton, Representative for Exxon

I find it funny that in the latest battle over funding for NPR and public broadcasting, the focus seems to be on the fact that these companies could probably do just fine without government help. Of great interest to conservatives is the amount Sesame Street makes from merchandising:

“Shows like Sesame Street are thriving, multimillion-dollar enterprises,” [Jim] DeMint wrote. “According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales. Big Bird will be just fine without his federal subsidies.”

Ok, fair enough. If we want to have a conversation about the free market and the need for government subsidies, then by all means let’s have it. The funny part is when we start talking about the amount of government funding that goes to things other than educational programming. A reporter got some face time with Texas Rep. Joe Barton, already somewhat infamous for apologizing to BP in the wake of the spill in the Gulf, and quizzed him on massive government subsidies for oil companies that, by all accounts, are doing just fine:

ABC’s Jonathan Karl noted that the taxpayer subsidies the oil industry receives are relics, which seem hard to defend in the 21st century. Barton initially argued, “Do you want everything made in China?” I’m not at all sure what argument he was trying to make with this.

So Karl pushed further, asking if there was any credible threat of major oil companies going out of business if they stopped receiving taxpayer subsidies. “Over time if you put so many disincentives against any U.S. manufacturing or production company, or oil and gas exploration company, they’ll go out of business,” Barton said.

Pressed further on whether he has trouble defending subsidies to an oil industry that’s already enjoying enormous profits, Barton said the money we throw at them is acceptable “so long as you believe that you believe in the free market capitalist system.”

If you have a hard time following the logic, you’re not alone. Apparently, it’s the height of wasteful spending to send taxpayer dollars to public broadcasting in the public interest, but it’s an affront to the very free market system itself to suggest that oil companies will probably get by without a government handout. Even if Barton made a cogent argument it still doesn’t make sense. Taxpayer subsidies are the very opposite of the free market. So, that’s not really the issue. Basically, it’s as simple as “handouts for me but not for thee.”

I’m sure lots of us suspected that Big Oil had a stranglehold on some politicians. Here’s the proof.




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