- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Tax those windfalls

James K. Glassman’s support of record profits for the big oil companies is a study in creative avoidance (“Pressures at the pump,” Commentary, Sept. 21).

He says these oil and gas prices are just a result of the free markets. That’s nonsense. Today, there is no free market in oil.

What we have are OPEC countries (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) sitting around a table deciding how much oil to pull out of the sands in order to affect prices. There are behemoth oil companies that, through blockbuster mergers in the 1990s, have more clout and muscle to affect the market. And there is the futures market, which is designed to promote liquidity in trading but has become a grand bazaar of speculation. All of these together clog the arteries of the free-market system.

I want oil companies to do well. We produce oil in North Dakota, and I have been supportive of the industry. But when the largest oil companies are racking up tens of billions of dollars in windfall profits, I believe someone has to stand up for the consumers who are paying through the nose.

The oil companies made the highest profits in their history last year. The 10 largest oil companies had revenues over $1 trillion, with net income over $100 billion. Exxon-Mobil alone earned $25 billion and used $10 billion to buy back its own stock.

This year a barrel of oil is priced $30 higher than last year, and the big oil companies’ windfall or excess profits will be out of sight. While these companies wallow in profits, the people who pull up to the gas pump are being charged an arm and a leg. And this winter, according to the Energy Department, homeowners will face a 70 percent increase in natural gas prices.

I have proposed that Congress enact a windfall or excess-profits tax to capture some of these windfall profits and send them back to the consumers in the form of a rebate.

Mr. Glassman is critical of that, and asks “should a farmer who scores a big gain because of the movement of corn prices on the open market pay a [windfall profits tax]?”

“Scores”? That is the language of speculators. It is used by elitists who wouldn’t know a hay rake from a heifer. Farmers don’t “score.” They “earn” — but only when times are good. And even then, they never receive the kind of profits now being “scored” (to use his word) by the oil companies.

Finally, Mr. Glassman says these oil and gas prices “encourage more supply.” My proposal would exempt those profits that are used to explore for more energy, so it wouldn’t hurt those companies that are really using these profits to increase supply.

But I wonder how Mr. Glassman explains that Exxon and others are buying back their stock and hoarding cash with these swollen profits. And still other oil companies are using their profits to drill for oil on Wall Street. How does that contribute to a greater supply of energy?

The truth is, average folks are paying the bill while the big oil companies are counting their record cash. And I think it is wrong. That is why I am trying to do something about it.



Day-labor outrage

I am appalled at Gaithersburg City Manager David Humpton’s position with regard to the day-laborer site that “This is the best alternative. We just feel like it’s a better situation than having no supervision at all” (“Gaithersburg residents protest day-laborer site,” Page 1, Wednesday). Where was his public input for this position? Why is the “best alternative” the entrance to historic Gaithersburg? Why is any residential neighborhood the “best alternative”? I am not against a day-laborer center or the day laborers, but I am outraged that the city did not involve the community in the decision and did not have any public meetings on the subject.

Mr. Humpton goes on to say that the Planning Commission must approve a zoning change to build the center. The article notes that a hearing is expected in November. Since when does the city agree to site a facility, begin construction without any public hearing and, then, after all of the decisions are made, “hold a hearing” to change the zoning? The city has gotten the cart in front of the horse. The whole process is an outrage.



Victimizing children

Good parents have their children’s best interests at heart, and functional parents provide love, nurturing, support, and a sense of security for their children. However, not all parents are good parents, and, as a consequence, children can become victimized by their parents’ neglect, abuse and cruelty that result in criminal behavior (“Mom let girl, 13, have sex,” The Washington Times Web site, Sept. 27). Such is the case with the woman in New York who pleaded guilty to second-degree rape wherein she provided a hotel room and liquor to her 13-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old friend to engage in sexual relations — while the mother was present — with two men they met at a mall.

For the average parent who possesses rational judgment and a deep love for their children, at first glance this situation may be hard to fathom. It is not uncommon, though, in present-day society to have situations of domestic violence and child abuse that often remain hidden behind closed familial doors in which outward appearances can be deceiving.

Children who are victimized by their parents often find themselves conflicted because of parental allegiance and their dependency on the parents for support and sustenance. In many cases, therefore, the children remain silent and endure whatever abuse they become subjected to for fear that disclosure will result in an even greater degree of violence and abuse.

In this case, the mother initiated and promoted highly inappropriate behavior. Her intent and willingness to subject her minor daughter and her friend to have sexual relations in a hotel setting with two casual acquaintances — all of whom were plied with alcohol — is legally criminal, philosophically outrageous and fundamentally unjust.

Undoubtedly, this mother’s actions and behavior have substantially affected these victims in a profoundly negative way that will have enduring impact for years to come. Not only did she exercise egregiously poor judgment by instigating such a course of events, but she violated a basic trust of the parent-child relationship that encompasses the concept of providing a sense of safety and well being for one’s child. The irreparable psychological and emotional harm will be long standing and may detrimentally influence both girls’ ability to engage in healthy and emotionally stable relationships in later years.

Judge Rory Bellantoni indicated that if the defendant could convince him that she understands the seriousness of this offense, he would sentence her to six months in jail. What Judge Bellantoni needs to strongly consider is the fact that if the mother of this child victim understood that initially, she would not have chosen to place her daughter and her friend in such a deplorable situation in the first place.

It is plainly evident that the defendant not only lacks a clear perspective on the seriousness of her crime, but also lacks a basic reservoir of common sense and good judgment that should comprise the process of parenting. Judge Bellatoni should also consider the probability that the defendant will tell him whatever he wants to hear in order to avoid a harsh sentence. In this case, the judge needs maintain a keen awareness of the critical impact of the children’s victimization caused by the defendant’s criminal behavior. Consequently, Judge Bellatoni should provide a strong sentence — including a lengthy jail term — that sends a message to the mother that such actions are illegal and intolerable.


Victim specialist

Domestic Violence Unit

State’s Attorney’s Office

Prince George’s County

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