As ThinkProgress has been documenting, a number of GOP lawmakers, when faced with their constituents’ anger over oil subsidies, have outright denied that these special tax breaks and expenditures even exist. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) both denied the existence of oil subsidies, to the shock of their constituents.
At a town hall held this past Monday posted on Youtube, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) came face to face with his constituents’ anger over these special favors for the oil industry. At one point, a man who was shocked that Cravaack was advocating for privatizing Medicare to reduce the deficit asked him why the congressman continues to support wasteful spending like offering subsidies for Big Oil.
Cravaack began a rambling response where he dodged the question and started advocating for increased domestic oil drilling. While he did this, constituents interjected to demand to know why Congress continues to subsidize oil companies. Eventually, the congressman simply denied that they even existed:
CONSTITUENT: I understand we have to balance the budget. But why are you starting to balance the budget for the lowest working class? […] What about oil companies? [inaudible] billion you gave them last quarter. Are you going to vote to take their subsidy away?
CRAVAACK: Let’s talk about the big, I know I get hit by this a lot, Big Oil. Making big profits, right? The reason why Big Oil is making big profits is because we’re paying big money at the pump. That’s why they’re making profits —
CONSTITUENT: No, it’s because you’re subsidising them!
ANOTHER CONSTITUENT: We are, of course paying —
ANOTHER CONSTITUENT: Why are you changing the subject?!
ANOTHER CONSTITUENT: How much do we subsidize them?!
CRAVAACK: Well, they have a lower tax rate, and they’re not really subsidized.
At another point, Cravaack said that we need more drilling here in the United States. While this did draw some applause from the audience, one constituent retorted, “It worked in the Gulf of Mexico!” Watch it:
Actually, the oil industry gets nearly $7 billion a year in subsidies, which are made up of a variety of special tax breaks and tax expenditures. Additionally, there is little evidence that additional domestic drilling in the United States would lower prices in the near-term.