Very briefly on “Big Oil” profit legislation

Courtesy of the gentlemen at the GW Patriot, the W.S.J’s “What Is a ‘Windfall’ Profit?”

The “windfall profits” tax is back, with Barack Obama stumping again to apply it to a handful of big oil companies. Which raises a few questions: What is a “windfall” profit anyway? How does it differ from your everyday, run of the mill profit? Is it some absolute number, a matter of return on equity or sales — or does it merely depend on who earns it?

Enquiring entrepreneurs want to know. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s “emergency” plan, announced on Friday, doesn’t offer any clarity. To pay for “stimulus” checks of $1,000 for families and $500 for individuals, the Senator says government would take “a reasonable share” of oil company profits.

Mr. Obama didn’t bother to define “reasonable,” and neither did Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, when he recently declared that “The oil companies need to know that there is a limit on how much profit they can take in this economy.” Really? This extraordinary redefinition of free-market success could use some parsing.

Now, I have little-to-no sympathy for “big oil”. Rarely offer I any sort of sympathy for big, period, and, irrespective of allegations of “price gouging” or “windfall profits”, my perspective, generally, predisposes me to oppose oil companies: As much as I love driving and, probably, partake in more than my fair share (Indiana-Maryland and back, multiple times, is hardly gas-conserving!) there-of, I have, for multitudinous reasons, serious qualms with the auto-mobile-reliant nature of our society, and am skeptically worried about global warming, not to mention the outrageous cost of gasoline at the pumps. None-the-less, this opinion piece resonates with my free-market tendencies, as well as my common sense. As the author notes, infra, these large oil companies also contribute prodigious sums to the tax coffers.

I’ve already made abundantly clear my belief that a second stimulus package is a ridiculous election-year ploy, lacking any intrinsic merit and poised only further to drive this spendthrift nation further into the cavernous recesses of fiscal perdition; taxing, additionally, an un-defined “reasonable” amount of oil companies’ profits strikes me as being the worst sort of demagogic pandering. We ought, of course, not to be surprised by Senator Obama’s succumbing to such typical games. He does, after all, represent Change.


On the coat-tails of the lament of the death of pub culture, the W.S.J. reminds us of further cultural debasement.

It may be hard to imagine — given our current obsessions with television shows, movies, instant-messaging, Facebook and blogs — but literature was once at the center of American cultural life. In the middle of the 20th century, novels and poems, of varying quality and aspiration, were widely read and widely talked about. And literary merit was discussed and hotly debated by critics whose essays, in Garrick Davis’s words, “courted the educated public with their elegant prose.”

James Seaton reviews Praising it New: The Best of the New Criticism. He offers a very lucid appraisal of the book, with some commentary on the New Criticism and the differences the distinguish it from the Trilling-Wilson camp — and, perhaps, surprising, the similarities between the two. Read it.