Can't We Strike Common Sense Deals in Washington Anymore?

All Americans are feeling the effect of rising gas prices in their wallets. Families will be thinking twice before taking out any loans just to fill up with gas for road trip vacations this summer.

Gas prices are largely driven by supply and demand economics and market forces. ButWashingtoncan do its role to help the American people, and they’re choosing not to because they’re more concerned about special interests instead of the American consumer.

Democrats in the Senate introduced a bill this week to eliminate $2 billion worth of tax subsidies a year for the big five oil companies. Shell Oil Co., ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP America, and Chevron Corp. together all logged profits totaling $36 billion during the first quarter of this year alone. The five oil companies had combined revenues of $1.5 trillion last year.

Of course, the heads of the five oil companies defended the tax breaks at a Senate hearing last week, using the same old arguments of just wanting the same tax advantages enjoyed by other industries, eliminating them will take money out of research and development, etc.

Democrats argue that with profits that high, the big oil companies won’t miss tax breaks that average $2 billion a year. I, as a Republican, believe they have a point.

This bill being voted on this week would target only the five largest oil companies, a proposal that would raise an estimated $44 billion over the next decade.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans introduced a measure this week that mirrors legislation already passed by House Republicans last week designed to increase offshore drilling and lift the moratorium enacted by President Obama in the wake of the BP spill. The GOP bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct previously scheduled offshore lease sales in theGulf of Mexico,Virginia, andAlaska.

Republicans argue that their bill would increase domestic oil production which would eventually lead to lower gas prices, lower our dependence on foreign sources of oil, and create 1.2 million jobs for Americans.

Any rational, common sense politician would see the opportunity to make a deal here. This is howWashingtonused to be.

But both bills failed in the Senate this week.

Why? Because Republicans apparently care more about protecting every penny of big oil’s profits and Democrats are more concerned about keeping environmentalists happy.

And while some may be outraged at the very thought of developing the U.S.’s own oil reserves, let’s face it, we’re not breaking our dependence on oil anytime soon. Of course we should be doing everything we can to develop alternative energy, but even T. Boone Pickens has given up on wind power due to lack of interest and financing and is moving towards developing natural gas instead.

Will any one of these pieces of legislation, by itself, fix the economy, eliminate the deficit, and lower gas prices immediately? Of course not. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. Anyone whose run a business, city, or state will tell you it is doing numerous little steps together that fixes the bigger problem. These problems are big and complicated because there is no one action fixes all solution.

Washington used to understand this too. Republicans and Democrats always had their differences, but at the end of the day, they could always get together to accomplish great things and do what’s right for the American people. It happened when Ronald Reagan was in office with a Tip O’Neill-led Democratic Congress and when Bill Clinton was in office with a New Gingrich-led Republican Congress.

But today, we’re electing more extremists in office than ever because we allow primaries to purge both parties of any moderates they have left. Today’s 24/7 media makes any politician afraid to be the first one to step up and meet the other side halfway lest he or she be accused of “selling out” by the political pundits. It’s a miracle that any common sense deals are struck at all anymore.

This is why both sides couldn’t even agree on a 2011 budget until halfway through the 2011 fiscal year, at the 11th hour. This is also why I don’t have any faith at all that both sides can reach a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit before we hit the debt ceiling and avoid an unprecedented default on U.S. Treasury bonds.

So have fun traveling this summer, as long as it’s within a ten mile radius!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons