Buried somewhere in the relatively insignificant
annals of this afternoon's secondary or tertiary news
stories is a little piece about how the Federal Trade
Commission has released its report that Big Oil hasn't
been gouging Americans in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina, or any time in the last 20 years, for that
matter. There's been no market manipulation, no
Enron-like scams, no nada. Big Oil has played by all
the rules, succumbed to market forces, and otherwise
been an upstanding capitalist citizen. Thank gawd the
FTC was there to vindicate their buddies! The mind
boggles as to what an actual investigation by a
non-conflicted FTC might have found.
When I say "conflicted," I'm not talking about the
usual roster of ex-oil junkies that pollute the Bush
administration like so many empty beer cans at a Hells
Angels barbecue. The FTC commissioners are all picked
by the president and confirmed by the Senate, like
most other appointees. The FTC rules are set up so
that no more than three commissioners are allowed from
a single political party. With a panel of five, that
means that "balance" is achieved by a two-vote
minority. Well, maybe not balance, but at least some
obstruction if need be.
The current lineup of commissioners seems pretty
balanced at first glance. Even a perfunctory scan of
their relevant speeches looks reasonable. Then you
start reading the speeches and opinions. That's when
the whitewash leaps out. This group of commissioners
has wanted to write the Big Oil report for years.
These, coincidentally, are the same years during which
Big Oil has become synonymous with Big Profit.
Clearly someone was in a hurry for absolution and
finally scored the right lineup of excusatory priests.
One concurring opinion of FTC commissioner Jon
Liebowitz reads like a play-by-play public relations
press release from Big Oil, featuring such lame
defenses as high oil cost, refinery problems,
"provincial" gasoline mixes, and that always pesky
"foreign demand." Even if the Commission is meant to
be a balanced partisan endeavor, it seems clear that
the Bush Bunch found the most sympathetic "lefties"
they could and stocked the farm with them.
Anyone who seriously thinks that there's been no
collusion or manipulation by Big Oil of factors
justifying pump prices is living in a fool's paradise
of rotten fruit and moribund meats. The way Big Oil
exterminated independent service stations by utilizing
restrictive purchasing requirements in franchise
contracts demonstrates how invisible machinations
produce catastrophic results. By wiping the natural
competitors in the field, the oligarchs made the wild
market all the more manageable, and malleable. What's
good for One is good for All. All the time. We have
to believe what they say because, well, there's no
other story out there.
If you've been waiting for that big congressional
investigation to root out the evils wrought by Big
Oil, you can fucking forget about it. The FTC report
gives all Senators and Congressmen/women the ability
to say, "Well, that's that." Prosecuting Big Oil is
simply impossible. Too many in Congress get money
either directly or indirectly from Big Oil, be it
campaign contributions, PAC donations, or, at the very
least, stock dividends. Whatever chest-thumping
outrage gets lip-served to the public in times when
profiteering threatens yet another recession, the
disappointing truth is that no one in Congress wants
to investigate BIG OIL because the investigation will
go nowhere. Somewhere along the line, enough pressure
will be applied in subtle, yet effective, places to
stymie any look behind the Black Curtain. Big Oil is
ruthless, swift, unbelievably rich, well-connected,
brutal, and capable of learning from others' mistakes.
No Senator on Congressman/woman wants to stick their
pencil neck into such an obvious guillotine.
No. Far better to bluster to the press, save face
with the public, and wait for the FTC to issue a "Get
Out of Hell For Free" report that obviates the need
for any such potentially threatening investigation.
Now that Big Oil has been cleared for twenty years of
rape, sodomy, plunder, conversion, obstruction,
obfuscation, fraud, extortion, robbery, and the Death
of the American Dream, I'm sure everyone on Capitol
Hill can go right back to the useless, spineless,
soulless bureaucratic dickering they were engaged in
before Dick and Jane Middleclass got in a tizz because
the fuelling the Hummer was cutting into the cocaine
and porn budget. If not, there's always Ambien.
But don't take my word for it. Utilize your dwindling
Constitutional rights and see for yourself.