Columns 2009

Me to energy execs… eat my taxes!

Given the fact that election season seems to run endlessly, thus subjecting us to annoying, loud and insulting ads for more of our lifetime than should be allowed, I think it’s time we chuck that pesky Free Speech part of our constitution and allow a law that would make it punishable by death to run any political ad for at least a year after the last election.

Should there be any doubt in your mind, let me make clear that this particular rant is being brought to you by the fine, if mysterious, folks running the current energy tax commercial on TV. 

You know the one I’m talking about. Someone asks your generic man and woman on the street if taxes should be raised on energy. Said generic man and woman on the street allow as how the economy sucks and they couldn’t handle more taxes right now so they think it’s a bad idea.  Every time I see this ad I am again struck almost wordless by how stupid and gullible the people creating the ad think most of the American public is.

I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess that this ad is financed by the industry that faces this potential tax hike, whether directly or through some bogus group created that will inevitably have a name like, “Citizens for Sensible Energy Policy.” The only “citizens” involved are probably those making way more money in a year than you will make in your lifetime. And they are seriously worried that if taxes are raised on their industry, they will be forced to choose between a smaller bonus for themselves or passing the tax hike on to you.  Guess which one they will likely choose?

The deliberate vagueness of the ad is what I find particularly galling.  There is nary a mention anywhere in the commercial as to who would be taxing exactly what. And when John and Joan Q. Public are interviewed about raised taxes, they speak in gloriously vague generalities that could apply to anything from property taxes to sales taxes to luxury taxes on that yacht in the harbor.  So the ad always leaves me with the question of exactly whom is the planned tax affecting and how does that tax somehow end up dinging my pocketbook.

The answer, of course, is very simple. Given the choice posited above about passing any increased tax on to the little guy and absorbing it within their still obscene profits, the energy industry will almost always choose to pass it along to you. Because, you see, this commercial isn’t really a plea for a sensible energy tax policy so much as it is a not so veiled threat from the energy industry. 

Their message is clear – if you don’t talk your elected representatives out of taxing them, they will punish you by sending that tax directly down the pipeline they have into your bank account.  Doing anything else, like perhaps cutting a billion here or there from their obscene profits, would be laughed out of the boardroom.

I must be honest and admit that until this commercial started to run, I hadn’t really even noticed that there was any thought being given to raising taxes on the energy industry. In fact, the first few times I saw it, I remember wondering what the heck all the fuss was about and why this was suddenly running with mind numbing frequency during so many of my favorite programs. My initial reaction was to hit the mute button and return to reading my magazine until the commercial ended. But the more I thought about it, the more it got under my skin and the more annoyed I became.

So just in case I’m not part of the focus group that is called to judge the efficacy of this ad, let me tell you how it affected me.  I now want to urge all my elected officials to raise energy taxes with the added rider that the increased cost must come directly from the pockets of energy executives and any attempt to pass it on to the consumer is punishable by a lifetime of trying to live on my budget.

How’s that for a fate worse than death?