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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 14, 2005 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766

Of Powerball and ‘profiteers’

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | What would you call a return of $850,000 on an investment of just $20? A windfall? A rip-off? If such a killing were made by someone who was already a multimillionaire, would you be outraged? Would you insist that his bonanza be slapped with a stiff surtax, the better to redistribute some of that wealth to the less fortunate or to the Treasury?

No need to wonder how Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire would answer such questions. When his $20 investment in Powerball lottery tickets paid off to the tune of $853,492 last month, the wealthy Republican jovially pronounced himself "truly deserving" and pocketed his winnings without a trace of embarrassment. He cheerfully declined the advice of colleagues like Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who suggested he donate the money to pay down the federal deficit.

No way, said Gregg. He would give some of the jackpot to his family's charitable foundation, but "the majority I will use personally."

So it goes without saying that Gregg has been stoutly defending the major oil companies from the current clamor for a windfall profits tax, right?

Wrong. Like other politicians on both sides of the aisle, he has been blasting Big Oil's supposed gluttony and demanding that it be punished for its "infuriating" windfall profits.

Just days after laying claim to his own windfall profit, Gregg issued a statement denouncing the oil industry for earning billions of dollars at a time when consumers are faced with high fuel prices. He called for an excess profit tax on oil companies, with the proceeds to be earmarked for low-income subsidies and deficit reduction. "I cannot sit back in good conscience," he intoned, "while those in our society struggling to heat their homes are being left in the cold by oil companies." Rarely is hypocrisy so blatant.

"No fair!" the senator's defenders will protest. "Powerball is a game of chance. Gregg took a gamble and won, but everybody knows he could have ended up with nothing."

The oil industry is a game of chance, too. Sometimes the price of crude soars to $70 a barrel; sometimes it drops to $10. Sometimes huge sums are invested in wells that turn out to be dry holes. Sometimes profits are healthy — and sometimes there are no profits at all. But unlike Gregg's trivial $20 gamble, big oil risks billions. This year alone, the industry will pour an estimated $86 billion into new technology and production. A single offshore drilling platform can run more than $1 billion.

"Come on," the enemies of Big Oil will snort. "Gregg's winnings weren't out of line for a lottery winner, and he collected a lot less than some winners do. These oil company profits are unprecedented. ExxonMobil reported $9.9 billion in profits last quarter. That's not just high, that's obscene!"

But profits can't be judged by dollar amounts alone. What counts is the percentage of revenues those profits represent. "Our numbers are huge because the scale of our industry is huge," Exxon CEO Lee Raymond tried, probably in vain, to explain during last week's big Senate hearing on oil company profits. Exxon's profits last quarter amounted to 9.8 cents for every dollar of sales. Is that obscene? Well, it was more profitable than Shell (which netted 7.8 cents of each dollar of revenue) or Chevron (6.6 cents) or BP (4.6 cents). But compared to Coca-Cola (21.2 cents), Bank of America (28.3 cents), or Microsoft (33.2 cents), it was nothing to write home about.

Smacking oil bosses around may be good politics, but the unglamorous fact is that Big Oil's earnings, 7.7 percent of income in the second quarter of 2005, is lower than the overall US corporate average of 7.9 percent. The oil industry is more profitable than some (automobiles, media, utilities), but it can only envy the profits earned by semiconductors (14.6 percent), pharmaceuticals (18.6 percent), or banks (19.6 percent). Exxon is doing all right, but it didn't hit the big jackpot any more than Senator Gregg did.

In fact, the real gas and oil profiteers weren't represented by the CEOs getting grilled on Capitol Hill last week, but by the demagogues doing the grilling. Over the past 25 years, according to the Tax Foundation, oil companies paid state and federal taxes of more than $2.2 trillion (in inflation-adjusted dollars). During the same period, the companies' profits totaled $630 billion — less than a third of the government's take. Government revenue from gasoline taxes alone has exceeded oil industry profits in 22 of the past 25 years.

If Gregg and his colleagues want to see what America's greediest oil fatcats look like, they can find the answer in the nearest mirror. Will they do anything to rein in those money-grubbing villains? Don't hold your breath.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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