In light of the record profits these firms have been racking up, not many folks will shed any tears for them. But perhaps they should.
Since winning back control of Congress, Democrats have been champing at the bit to raise the gas tax, yet they know motorists would be none too pleased if they did, especially with OPEC-driven pump prices soaring to record highs.
So, in effect, the House voted to raise taxes on the oil companies by $18 billion -- what the deductions are worth -- hoping that, if the measure becomes law, motorists won't notice when the companies' higher tax burden is passed through to them.
Clever. But there would be an unintended consequence if this happens -- at least we hope it's unintended. It would be betrayal if it was done on purpose.
Investor's Business Daily pointed out that the tax increase would be a boon to Venezuela's brutal America-hating leftist dictator, Hugo Chavez, because the House bill doesn't take away the 6 percent tax deduction for foreign-owned subsidiaries.
This means that Citgo, which buys its fuel from Venezuela, would have a big competitive price advantage at the pump over its rivals, which buy from the U.S. oil firms. This would mark one more victory for Chavez over U.S. oil companies. A few years back, he nationalized their operations in his country, which is a polite way of saying he stole them.
Fortunately, the House's oil-tax bill is not expected to go much further. In the unlikely event the Senate passed it, President Bush surely would veto it, especially since the administration is considering adding Venezuela to the "axis of evil" states that aid and abet terrorists around the world.
Even so, it's distressing that the House would pass a bill that could raise pump prices for consumers and enrich a thug dictator. Are lawmakers blind?