By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund
The Occupy Wall Street movement has moved west, with approximately 150 people camping out in Salt Lake City, a number predicted to grow in advance of a large rally on Friday. In addition to the growing influence of this 99 Percent Movement, a group of Utahans lead by Alliance for a Better Utah unveiled on Friday a large billboard pointing out the incongruity of giving billions in tax breaks to oil companies while Republicans advocate slashing Medicare. The billboard asks “Big Oil Gets Tax Breaks, Grandma Gets Medicare Cuts?”
Craig Janis, executive director of Utah Common Values, a moderate and progressive Mormon group, discussed how his faith influences his view of tax breaks to gigantic oil companies:
America has major fiscal problems right now. And the way that we choose to respond to these problems will say a lot about who we are as a nation. Are we the kind of people that when times get tough, we, as the scriptures tell us to, we remember the plight of the poor and needy, the widows and the fatherless? As an LDS person that’s very important to me. It’s one of the four main missions of the LDS church, to help the poor and needy. I look at these kinds of tax cuts, and the idea that when times get tough we’re going to put the burden on those who can least afford to shoulder that burden—this doesn’t make any sense to me from a moral standpoint, a commonsense standpoint, or an economics standpoint.
These calls for ending subsidies to profitable oil companies reflect the messages of protestors in downtown Salt Lake City and across the country — that corporate greed at the expense of the other “99 percent” of the nation is tearing us apart. Billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies — the top five of which made $67 billion in profits in just the first half of this year — symbolizes what Occupy Wall Street protesters are against: profits over people, the unjustness of our financial system that continuously rewards the top 1 percent, and greed trumping values. Continued subsidies to Big Oil companies can be viewed as one of the clearest examples of how money and power have infiltrated our political system.
Oil companies have tremendous sway on our political system. In the 2012 election cycle, which doesn’t end until next November, oil and gas companies and their affiliates have already given $8.4 million in campaign contributions. Specific to the interests of Utahans, both senators and all three congressmen have taken between $2,000–96,900 from oil and gas in this election cycle.
As a sign held by an attendee at the unveiling of the billboard read: “Tax cuts for Big Oil equal poverty for 99%.”