Republicans Want to Bail Out Big Oil but Not States and Cities?

Republicans Want to Bail Out Big Oil but Not States and Cities?
Tankers moored at an oil refinery near Houston (Art Wager/iStock)

The oil industry made a bunch of bad investments, and they want you to absorb the losses.

The Federal Reserve appeared to clear the way Thursday for a stealth bailout of over-leveraged oil companies that President Trump had promised earlier this week.

Let’s get this straight: We’re supposed to spend our tax money to prop up destructive corporations that for decades have poisoned the environment, changed the chemistry of the atmosphere, undermined science, and manipulated our political system. And, in exchange, we get to burn oil for years into the future, thereby ensuring a climate catastrophe? Only President Trump could strike a deal like that, wherein we borrow from the next generation to bail out an industry that threatens to destroy their future.

But here’s the great irony of the situation: While President Trump scrambles to save oil companies from bankruptcy, many congressional Republicans are refusing to help states that are being driven to bankruptcy by the pandemic.

“We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they’ve made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That statement describes oil companies far more accurately than U.S. states and cities. Oil companies spent the last decade issuing junk bonds in a massive gamble that they have now lost in a big way. With oil costing next to nothing right now, they can’t pay the debts they incurred. Predictably, the oil industry is coming hat in hand to the federal government, which has already been subsidizing the industry to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year.

In the oil industry, as in others, it’s the workers who are suffering the worst of the economic hardship from the current pandemic. Any public assistance offered should be helping those workers directly—not paying off the debts the industry recklessly took on long before the COVID-19 struck.

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