Want a simple way to tell if humanity is taking the threat of global warming seriously? Ask yourself this question: Does Exxon Mobil pay more taxes than at least one U.S. citizen? That’s right. Just one.
Right now, the answer is a clear and resounding “No!” because Exxon Mobil — like many multinational corporations living through the last hoorah of predatory capitalism — has achieved what Nobel laureate economist George Stigler called regulatory capture. In this case, the IRS was “captured” by corporate lobbyists to create a cash funnel of wealth transfer so large it is hard to believe.
According to this study, Exxon Mobil received a whopping $12.9 billion (that’s $12,900,000,000) in tax subsidies between 2008 and 2015. Break that down by year and it’s $1.84 billion per year that they get paid to keep us locked into a fossil fuel infrastructure. In other words, we are investing in climate catastrophe on epic scales. This would be like knowingly feeding your child sugary foods as an investment in diabetes, when instead you could invest in a healthy adult with freshly prepared foods built on a diversity of fruits and vegetables.
Bringing this down to the concretely human scale, there is not a single person in the world who receives more than $1.84 billion in tax returns (without paying a cent out of pocket). So everyone on the planet pays more taxes than Exxon Mobil. This means YOU too, by the way. Think about this when tax season comes around next year.
So if we are ever going to get serious about dealing with the climate crisis, we’ll need to reach at least one initial policy goal — that there exists a flesh-and-blood human being somewhere on Earth who pays less taxes than one of the largest polluters on the planet.
Until we do this, all other policy discussions are like pissing in the wind during a hurricane.
Onward, fellow humans.
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