The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 13, 2011

Our view: Another place to cut spending

— When we pay our monthly bills at home, we follow a budget and spend only what we bring in. So when our budgets get lean and we have to cut back, we look at unnecessary spending.

Maybe that means we buy hamburger instead of steak. We get generic items instead of name-brand items.

The federal government has a chance to cut $2 billion annually for the next decade by rescinding government subsidies to the five largest oil companies in the world, according to a bill sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell reported profits of $32 billion in the first quarter alone. So we support McCaskill’s idea to get those subsidies back.

A similar idea in the House calls for scaling back even more of the $4.4 billion in annual tax breaks available to all oil companies. We favor McCaskill’s approach, because it leaves smaller businesses alone.

In fact, that’s the biggest thing we like about McCaskill’s bill: It is meant to stop giving money to entities that are making their own money hand over foot.

Opponents of the bill suggest that this is just a cheap attempt to get headlines and score political points by taking advantage of how we’re all fuming over gas prices. They also say it’s an attempt to punish “Big Oil.” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., says the bill could cost jobs and raise the price at the pump even higher.

We are skeptical that the companies would be hurt by the loss of the subsidies.

 An Associated Press analysis suggests that the price of oil is so high that removing all of the tax breaks for oil productions (not just McCaskill’s targets) would barely have an effect on oil production.

This is not class warfare. This is not political. It’s not punishment for pain at the pump.

It’s a good, common-sense idea to help our ultimate goal of reducing government spending.