Landry (R-LA) says Big Oil CEOs deserve excessive pay since they are “that smart and that good”

Christy Goldfuss, CAPAF’s Public Lands Project Director, in a Think Progress cross-post.

For freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA), record pay for oil CEOs as Americans suffer from surging gas prices is the realization of the American Dream.

In a House Hearing last week, Landry had a remarkable exchange with Michael Fox (a lobbyist for gas station owners, not the actor). Pressed on Big Oil’s supposedly low profit margins, Fox pointed out that Exxon CEO Lee Raymond’s retirement package was “$450 million dollars for doing a 90 hour job,” and the service station retailer gets paid $60,000 for doing a 90 hour job. Landry responded by claiming that’s just the American Dream, and that Big Oil executives must be smarter and better than everyone else, including small business owners:

LANDRY: But isn’t that what America is all about, about that American dream, about that kid who might not have it real good and grows up in a poor family and works his way to the top, and shouldn’t he be able to make as much money as he possibly can and work as less hours as he possibly can, if he’s that smart and that good? Should we destroy the American dream to put your equation into play here?

FOX: He’s not “that smart” and he’s not “that good.”

Rep. Landry’s equation for the American dream includes $4 billion dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies to corporations that continue to make record profits. Over the past decade, the big five oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell – made nearly $1 trillion in profits. The companies had record profits in 2008, which was the same year that oil reached all-time high of $147 per barrel (USA Today link). In 2009, ExxonMobil did not pay any federal taxes, because of all the federal help it received.

According to an AP analysis, the pay package for ConocoPhillips’ top executive, Jim Mulva, went up by 25 percent last year to $17.9 million, money sucked from taxpayer subsidies and drivers’ wallets. “Mulva was paid a $1.5 million salary, stock awards of $6.2 million and option awards worth $5.7 million. He also received perks of $294,000, including the personal use of company cars and aircraft, life insurance premiums and medical services.”

The oil and gas industry spent $146 million lobbying Congress last year, including $87,450 to Landry’s campaign, making oil and gas his largest single industry contributor. Mr. Landry and his Republican allies have voted unanimously to protect the oil and gas subsidies. For most, the American Dream means working hard, playing by the rules, and achieving success, not on the backs of other hardworking taxpaying citizens.


FOX: I have a problem when you make a comparison that ExxonMobil’s profits are about 7 to 8 percent and you say a gasoline retailer’s profits are 7 or 8 percent. And you compare those two and say I’m complaining about it. What I’m complaining about is how you got down to 7 to 8 percent, was to pay the CEO $450 million dollars for doing a 90 hour job and the service station retailer gets paid $60,000 for doing it. And the CEO has a private jet and flies that sheik from OPEC here . . .

LANDRY: But isn’t that what America is all about, about that American dream, about that kid who might not have it real good who maybe grows up in a poor family and works his way to the top, and shouldn’t he be able to make as much money as he possibly can and work as less hours as he can, if he’s that smart and that good? I mean, should we destroy the American dream to put your equation into, into play here? I mean, I don’t know. Just answer yes or no.

FOX: I can’t.

LANDRY: Okay. Let me . . .

FOX: He’s not “that smart” and he’s not “that good”!

LANDRY: Oh, really. Okay. Well. Uh. Hmm. Okay.

19 Responses to Landry (R-LA) says Big Oil CEOs deserve excessive pay since they are “that smart and that good”

  1. Lore says:

    “Landry (R-LA) says Big Oil CEOs deserve excessive pay since they are “that smart and that good”

    Wasn’t that also said about the “Smartest Guys in the Room”, Enron?

  2. Bryson Brown says:

    Privilege is invisible to those who have it. The only explanation Landry can imagine for why a CEO is paid that much is that he (I do mean he) richly deserves it. Nothing to do with background and position, or with the sympathetic support of board members who just know that people like them (the executives whose management they are supposed to oversee) deserve all the millions they can shower on them. A progressive tax system is essential, given how powerful these influences are, but it seems that’s simply not possible when corporations and the wealthy own Washington.

  3. dano says:

    Occidental Petroleum’s CEO Ray Irani has taken home $900 million over the past 10 years. That is not a typo. He made a little less than $1 billion. Not including perks. And there were perks.

  4. I don’t care that much about what kind of retirement packages the rich honchos are getting.

    But when the “that smart and that good” work performance involves cutting corners in health and safety, leaking oil and radiation and other poisonous materials to the environment, getting people killed, and then sending out sockpuppets to defend themselves while hacking into computers of truth-tellers — if that’s what their “that smart and that good” behaviour entails, then yes, I have a huge problem with that.


  5. Kasra says:

    There really is no shameful thing these guys won’t say. They’ve uninvented the concept of shame.

  6. paulm says:

    Prices going up some more….

    Oklahoma Sees Driest 4 Months Since 1921 – 90yrs!

  7. paulm says:

    Monday’s Severe Weather: The Largest Outbreak Ever?

    Destructive thunderstorms associated with a potent storm system rumbled across the eastern third of the country Monday and Monday night, producing more than 1,300 reports of damage from Texas through Pennsylvania.

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, such ridiculous statements…another Gulf Coast apologist for the oil industry – who’d of thunk? Wonder who pays him his big campaign donations? Reminds me of Rep Haley Barbour “apologizing” to the oil industry when BP’s well was leaking into the Gulf of Mexico (was it last year?).

    Rep Landry’s quotes here remind me of the discussion of the former Bush Administration appointed SEC board as they were discussing whether they should raise the limit of leverage (and by how much) that the Investment Banking industry wanted (I think it was ~2005). The SEC basically said the same thing (these are “brilliant” people and we should let them do as they want) and raised the leverage limit (how much cash to debt they could play in their investments with) to whatever the industry wanted (up above 30 times – so that a 3% loss in their investment positions would wipe out their equity – totally crazy and helped set the stage for 2008).

  9. Bob Doublin says:

    Someone should deconstruct totally the passage in Atlas Shrugged where Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon construct the railroad line using Reardon’s just invented metal alloy. I think it is a KEY passage behind all this crap about business executives “earning” their outrageous salaries (it’s also crucial to the whole bs going on around the concept of proving technologies and products are dangerous-Rand probably wrote it around the time the industry lies first were coming out about the dangers of smoking.) If you really want to understand what Libertarians and their ilk are babbling about when they pooh pooh the dangers of global warming, you really need to understand in depth this ~100 page passage. Sure it’s not philosophical, sociological, economics, and political science,BUT THEY THINK IT’S ALL THEY NEED and that’s the key. If you can destroy this by good solid reasoning and facts you can do a lot of damage to their position.
    I’ve said before that I have no desire to ever again read Atlas Shrugged or any of Rand’s other books so someone else would have to do it; besides I know I’m not up to it for a lot of reasons (philosophical skills, writing skills,etc.)I would be willing to answer questions regarding my own experiences with these passages. I really do think this is a key pillar in their whole ideological edifice.

  10. Solar Jim says:

    One more, among thousands, of the ascension of anti-American corporate fascism. Or perhaps it is better defined by Transfascism – a government of the right, enabled through merging of state and business interests along with an ideology of belligerent centralization of financial, physical and political power.

  11. Bob Doublin says:

    I forgot to mention, the “highlight” of the passage was where Dagny Taggart contemptuously mocks the concerns expressed by the press over safety issues by saying “We’re going to make a ton of money.We’ll have earned it.” like this was the absolute final word possible.

  12. JohnC says:

    Ah yes the American dream:
    “…life liberty and the pursuit of obscene wealth…”
    “…the huddled masses yearning to get rich quick…”
    “…conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are entitled to a golden parachute…”
    “… to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of a 10 figue inheritance to our posterity…”

  13. Gene says:

    One data point I haven’t seen… Would the oil companies still be profitable without the subsidies? I suspect they would. To me, that would really help the case against the subsidies. In fact, that would even lead to an argument that the subsidies are nothing but a gift to the oil companies and their shareholders.

  14. malcreado says:

    Smart enough to be in the business of feeding an addiction…perhaps we are all just that stupid to use that much oil, driving that kind of vehicle, that many miles.

  15. Rob Honeycutt says:

    I’m smart and good too! May I have their pay, please?

  16. Jathanon says:

    RE Bob Doublin says: April 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Certainly the libertarians all see themselves as the protagonist in Atlas Shrugged — the brilliant deserving individual, with no need for government, its bureaucrats, or the ignorant drones of the teeming masses. They are deserving of the riches because of their inherent superiority — and of course, the masses dragging them down don’t deserve anything.
    Witness Mark Sanford, and why he thought he could and should get away with anything.

  17. CTG says:

    I don’t know, Landry may have a point. After all, these guys have been in charge of one of the most successful disinformation campaigns in all time. They have convinced the GOP to hand them billions of dollars in subsidies, whilst eliminating subsidies to their competitors. They have been able to blind the majority of people to the upcoming peak oil crisis which will generate them unheard-of profits.

    I’d say those guys were pretty damn smart. Morals of raccoons, yes, but they’re not dumb.

  18. accidentalfission says:

    More on Ayn Rand here:

    Two main points:
    1) She admired a child murderer named William Edward Hickman.
    2) Faced with costly cancer treatment, Rand accepted Medicare.

    I saw a car with an “I Love John Galt” bumper sticker the other day. Yeah, they’re out there.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    So it took just $87,450 to buy this type of groveling sycophancy. One imagines it to be money poorly spent, as this level of crass ‘brown-nosing’ is unlikely to impress anybody. Far better to spend real money, not loose change, and get something a little more sophisticated, but then again, the target audience is probably not that discerning, come to think of it. The brainwashing of the proles to actually believe that they might, one fine day, join the masters at the pig trough, is the kleptocracy’s greatest, if most incredible, triumph. That these vast fortunes are bought at the cost of millions of others suffering real, absolute or comparative, want and neglect, is of no account.
    Well, actually it is. To be rich while millions or billions of others suffer, not only does not trouble the conscience of the rich, with a few exceptions,it actually pleases them. It reinforces their gigantic egotism, it sates their tastes (if only for a time)for the suffering of others and it enables them to control their environment to their further material advantage. When you see other people as enemies or as competition, you are certain to hate all collective, co-operative action, hence the Right’s preference for Rightwing autocracies where every man is set against the next, and power is maintained by the knout. Hence the US, the global Rightwing supremo and enforcer’s, preference for the Marcos, Mobutu, Mubarak, Pinochet, Park, Suharto type of brutal, murderous, kleptocrat, who displays his loyalty by investing his loot in US Treasuries and Manhattan real estate while his people suffer and dissidents ‘disappear’ and are murdered.
    What the Rightist lacks is a true spiritual understanding. They exist entirely on the material plane, where endless accumulation is the obsessive over-compensation of those who lack an internal, moral, substance. If you have no soul, or only a distorted simulacrum of one, where your good is to see others suffer unnecessary deprivation, then the drive to utilise material wealth to make good this spiritual deficiency, becomes insatiable. The more you amass, the less you are connected to real life, the more you exist only as the possessor of things, the more you must covet and desire and grasp. It is a vicious cycle that only ends in physical death, when the living cadaver is reunited in nothingness with the dead soul. The Right, of course, maintain the pretense that they are ‘religious’, but theirs is a soul-less religiosity, based on nothing more than the desire not to die, but to go on forever, smugly self-satisfied, at God’s Right hand. They prefer the Old Testament of condign punishment, God’s wrath for ‘sinners’, massacres for His enemies and riches for His people- in other words a materialistic, genocidal and brutally judgmental vision of religious faith. The New Testament Jesus is treated with less enthusiasm, particularly his strict non-violence and egalitarian and fraternal teachings. It is these dead souls who are consuming our living planet. Greed is the incurable curse, the crime against the Holy Spirit.