A Pacific Standard analysis shows the oil and gas industry is among the tax bill’s greatest financial beneficiaries.
By Antonia Juhasz, Mar 27, 2018
Last month, during a retreat in West Virginia, congressional Republicans set out their 2018 party goals. Their primary objective is to hold onto their majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the key mechanism for doing so is to ride the coattails of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “The tax bill is part of a bigger theme that we’re going to call The Great American comeback,” said Representative Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “If we stay focused on selling the tax reform package, I think we’re going to hold the House and things are going to be OK for us.”
More than 50 percent of the tax bill’s benefits will go to the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, and more than 25 percent to the wealthiest 1 percent, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. As Businessweek put it, “President Donald Trump and Republicans sold their $1.5 trillion tax cut as a boon for workers, but it’s becoming clear just two months after the bill passed that the truly big winners will be corporations and their shareholders.”
Pacific Standard‘s original analysis finds that it is the oil and gas industry, including companies that backed the presidency of Trump and whose former executives and current boosters now populate it, that are among the tax bill’s largest and most long-lasting financial beneficiaries.
Just 17 American oil and gas companies reported a combined total of $25 billion in direct one-time benefits from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Many of the companies will also receive millions of dollars in income tax refunds this year. Looking forward, the Tax Act then reduces all corporate annual tax bills by a minimum of 40 percent every year in perpetuity, while adding new benefits that function as government subsidies for the oil and gas industry. The companies’ activities in the United States are made less expensive, thereby encouraging a further expansion of oil and gas operations.
Pacific Standard reviewed the Annual 10K and Fourth Quarter Reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for 2017 by 17 U.S. oil companies, looking at the largest companies in production, refining, and pipelines that also clearly specified the impacts of the Tax Act in their results. Private companies, such as Koch Industries, which undoubtedly benefit from the legislation, could not be included because they are not required to make these financial reports publicly available.
Tom Steyer wants Trump impeached, and he’s mad that many Democrats don’t
By Joe Garofoli, April 8, 2018 Updated: April 9, 2018 9:20am
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer is bringing a nationwide town hall tour promoting President Trump’s impeachment to Oakland, but he’s got more in mind than leading a pep rally for Bay Area liberals. He intends to shame Democrats who aren’t cheering along with him.
“I think there’s a question about what people are willing to say in public that they know is true,” said Steyer, a former San Francisco hedge fund manager who commands attention in left-leaning circles for the tens of millions he’s spent on registering voters and backing Democratic candidates.
Many Democrats aren’t calling to impeach Trump, Steyer said, “because of political posturing before the midterms.”
Steyer’s appearance Wednesday highlights a stark divide among the most liberal Democrats: Is removing Trump from office “the most important issue in America right now,” as Steyer insists, or is it premature to move before they have what Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell calls “an impenetrable set of facts”?
Some Democrats fear losing the moral and political high ground by backing impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any Trump campaign ties to Russian election meddling is complete.
It will be impossible to win Republican support for impeachment in the GOP-controlled Congress unless Mueller finds evidence of criminal conduct by Trump himself, Democratic leaders say. Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House, and conviction and removal from office takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
“I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone to be pushing impeachment before the investigation is finished,” Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Chronicle’s “It’s All Political” podcast earlier this year. While there is a legal standard for impeachment, he said, there “also a political standard. Can you make the case for impeachment in districts around the country?
“That case will be more difficult to make if it looks like this is where we wanted to go all along,” Schiff said.
Last fall, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco called Steyer’s impeachment campaign a distraction from the party’s efforts to retake the House. She declined last week to talk about Steyer’s town hall tour.
To Steyer, it’s an outrage that in an area with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Democratic voters, six House members — Pelosi, Swalwell and Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren — voted against an impeachment resolution in January.
They weren’t alone — only 66 House Democrats supported the resolution. Among them were Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson and John Garamendi.
Steyer hoped for better. Nationally, more than 5.1 million people have signed his NeedtoImpeach.com petition since October, and he’s put seven pro-impeachment commercials on national TV.
Now, through his 30-stop national tour, Steyer wants to generate public pressure to get Congress to join him, starting with key Democrats near his home.
He retains a big megaphone in Democratic circles because of the $91 million he spent on left-leaning causes and candidates in the 2016 campaign cycle and the $30 million he pledged to spend on registering 250,000 voters this year.
“Those who condemn Trump but do nothing to back their words with action are enabling the damage he is inflicting,” Steyer said. “Local Bay Area Congress members have repeatedly chosen to ignore their constituents’ voices by voting no on impeachment. The people deserve elected leaders who refuse to back down on our shared principles, and we will ensure their voices are heard.”
Steyer isn’t promising to fund primary challenges to anti-impeachment Democrats. Instead, he envisions his town hall meetings as a “two-way conversation” where he can build public pressure against those who oppose impeachment. He’ll hold his Oakland event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Impact Hub on Broadway.
Steyer’s target list includes Swalwell, who has shown up regularly on cable talk shows over the past year excoriating Trump for everything from his tax plan to his foreign policy. Swalwell’s House website is filled with charts and videos explaining how “Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.”
But impeachment? Not yet, Swalwell said.
“We shouldn’t run or make this midterm election a referendum on impeachment,” he said. “I think the country wants to be assured that if you were to proceed that way, you would have an impenetrable set of facts to prove that it should happen. And right now we don’t have investigations that allow us to do that.
“I don’t think we should be as reckless with the truth as Trump has been,” he said.
Speier, D-Hillsborough, sides with Swalwell. She has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress, calling for him to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and two-thirds of the Cabinet to declare a president unfit. She said Trump has shown “erratic behavior and lack of mental capacity.”
But she is not ready to back impeachment yet, either.
“I’m not saying it won’t be appropriate,” Speier said. “But I do not believe that we have the appropriate evidence yet that will make a compelling case. Impeachment is a political act. It’s got to be extraordinarily compelling to get Republicans to support it.”
Steyer counters, “We don’t need any more evidence. The evidence is already there.”
Trump could be impeached for several reasons, Steyer said, including obstruction of justice and violating constitutional bans on profiting from holding his office.
Every day, he said, Trump “does something to make you upchuck.”
Khanna, D-Fremont, said he respects Steyer’s efforts to energize Democratic voters, “but we have different roles. He is a citizen activist and leader. I am a member of Congress who took an oath to the Constitution and (to) follow the legal process that is foundational to our democracy.”
It’s hard to ignore that Steyer’s town hall tour includes three stops in Iowa — the first caucus state on the presidential campaign trail — and other events in swing states Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina. But he said the impeachment tour is aimed at registering voters for this year’s elections, not testing his presidential prospects.
“We are really, really, really focused on what’s going on in 2018,” Steyer said. “Anyone who is looking beyond (election day in November) is missing the point.”
Trump, Not Record-Breaking Disasters, Dominated TV News Coverage of Climate Change in 2017
By Farron Cousins • Monday, February 12, 2018 – 16:51
Extreme weather events in the United States seemed ever-present in the media during 2017, with historic wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and droughts receiving national coverage. What was less common, however, was major TV news networks making the connection between these kinds of billion-dollar disasters and climate change for their viewers. That’s despite scientific support confirming these links, and some experts even warning that such extreme events may be “the new normal.”
This report found that the major news networks — ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and PBS — spent a combined 260 minutes covering climate change in 2017 on their evening news and Sunday morning talk shows. The report does not include coverage from cable news outlets. While CBS and PBS spent more time on the issue than the rest of the networks, they were also the only ones to feature guests who outright denied the overwhelming scientific consensus around human-caused climate change.
For example, an October 10 edition of PBS NewsHour hosted notorious coal executive Bob Murray of Murray Coal, who made the claim that “I listen to 4,000 scientists … who tell me that mankind is not affecting climate change.” Murray’s interviewer did not question or correct his erroneous claims, and presented Murray’s position as one of two “sides” along with former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Climate Change and Trump
Up from a dismal 50 minutes of total coverage in 2016, last year’s TV news attention on climate change actually rarely discussed extreme weather events — or greenhouse gas emissions, advances in climate science, or much besides the Trump administration’s actions and statements. In fact, the networks only devoted a combined 12 total segments to discussing the link between extreme weather and climate change, and two of those segments were discussing the links between climate change and hurricanes.
The networks, combined, also had four segments on public health issues related to climate change, three on economics and climate change, and just two which discussed the national security issues associated with climate change. There is some overlap in the numbers, as some issues were discussed in the same segments.
Instead, the lion’s share of the climate-related coverage — 205 of the 260 total minutes — was spent talking about Donald Trump and his administration’s actions on climate change and environmental policies.
Of all the network broadcasts, PBS devoted more segments than any other network to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, with CBS coming in a very close second. PBS spent far more airtime discussing the administration’s rollback of environmental protections than the other four networks combined. Notably, none of the networks devoted a single segment last year to covering the climate implications of the Dakota Access or Keystone XLpipelines, which climate activists have fought vigorously and on which Trump issued decisions last year.
The report also mentions that nearly one-third of the broadcasts that mentioned Trump’s infamous 2012 tweet calling climate change a Chinese “hoax” did not bother to refute the president’s claims.
Billion Dollar Disasters
According to estimates, 2017’s extreme weather and climate disasters in the United States cost the country more than $300 billion. Since 1980, there have been 219 weather and climate catastrophes that have carried a price tag of over $1 billion a piece, according to the government’s own calculations. Between the more than a thousand deaths from natural disasters in the United States last year (mostly due to Hurricane Maria) and the astronomical price tag, it is obvious that major network coverage could have gone far deeper in reporting the context and connections to climate change.
Mainstream media’s overall failure to mention climate change in the context of extreme weather events helps prevent the public from linking the two.
Climate change has far more impacts than just rising temperatures, and until broadcasters begin explaining its links to human impacts, environmental damage, and extreme weather, too many people will be left with only half of the story.