“I’m a Conservative Republican like you, Austin…”
The voice resonated through my headphones during the final minutes of my radio program, at AM 630 WMAL in Washington, D.C. The caller to the program - - we’ll call him “John” - - paused mid-sentence, and I sensed that there was a “big but” coming next.
“But,” he continued, “we’ve just gotta do something to reign in these excessive profits from the oil companies.” Oil industry executives had been questioned by members of Congress earlier in the day about why their profits, and prices, have been so high. The inquisition on Capitol Hill, which was quite a spectacle in itself, was still top-of-mind for many.
“What is excessive?” I asked.
“Oh, please, you don’t think they’re excessive?” he replied.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. Commercially operated businesses are supposed to produce the greatest level of profit that they can; they are beholden to their stockholders to do that. What do you mean when you say ‘excessive?’”
“I mean over forty billion dollars in profits last year for the Exxon corporation is excessive.”
“Okay,” I said, “how much profit would be reasonable for Exxon to make?”
“Oh, I don’t know, that’s not my point” he replied. “I’m just saying that $3.29 a gallon for gasoline is outrageous, and we need to do something.”
“That’s a pricing issue” I said, “not a profits issue. Prices won’t decline until demand for gasoline decreases, or the supply of oil increases, or both. But forget the oil companies for a moment and let’s talk about you. How much profit did you make last year?”
“That doesn‘t concern you” he replied, sounding irritated.
“No, no, it concerns me a lot John. You’ve made it your concern to attempt to regulate the profits of oil companies - - ”
“Because gas prices are outrageous” he said interrupting me, “and they’re unfair.”
“Right, and you might have made more money last year than I did,” I replied, “and that would be unfair for me. We may very well need to regulate your excessive profits.”
“And you’re a pathetic hack for corporate America” he shouted at me. And then my conversation with John, and my evening radio show, ended.
It’s alarming to me how often I encounter people who are self-described “Conservatives” or “Conservative Republicans,” yet are quite comfortable with ideas and principles that are the antithesis of the “conservative,” “limited government” vision that has been the apex of the Republican Party for nearly all of my life.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.