Bruce Bartlett

On Wednesday, two Senate committees will hold a joint hearing on energy prices and corporate profits. Executives from the leading oil companies have been summoned so that senators can publicly berate them for greed, price gouging and anything else they can think of that might provide a good television soundbite.

 We have seen this many times before. When Democrats controlled Congress, such kangaroo courts were a common occurrence every time the world price of oil spiked. Congressmen and senators ranted and raved for the cameras, while oil company executives were forced to sit silently and take it, with little if any opportunity to respond.

 What is different now is that Republicans are doing exactly the same thing. Their purpose seems to be to prove to the American people once and for all that it makes absolutely no difference which party controls Congress -- the same utterly stupid policies are pursued under both Republican and Democratic control. And Republicans wonder why their party's base is evaporating, with many political analysts now predicting heavy losses for the GOP in next year's congressional elections.

 The ultimate in Republican idiocy is growing support for a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Mental diminishment is even affecting those previously considered to be "conservative" -- a term increasingly devoid of meaning in a Congress that spends money even faster that liberal Democrats used to do. It is worth quoting at length from one of these alleged conservatives, Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire. In an Oct. 28 press release, Sen. Gregg had this to say:

 "Over the past few days, while the public and our national economy are suffering under the huge burden of costs of oil and gas, it is infuriating that one part of the economic sector is reporting record-breaking profits, some in the $10 billion quarterly range. With people being forced to pay $3 a gallon for gas and $2.50 for oil to heat their homes, it is apparent that the oil companies have taken advantage of the trust of the American people.

 "As a result of this, I believe it is time to take a serious look at reinstituting an excess profit tax on oil companies, with the proceeds being put toward the low income home energy assistance program and deficit reduction. I intend to pursue options in this area over the coming weeks.

 "Some might call this a novel approach for me, but I cannot sit back in good conscience while those in our society struggling to heat their homes are being left in the cold by oil companies."

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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