Montana Politics

Brad Johnson Defends the Poor, Beleaguered Oil and Gas Industries

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If I were advising PSC candidate Brad Johnson, I’d probably suggest he avoid mentioning highways in any opinion pieces for the public, but that was hardly the worst part of his anti-tax, pro-oil, fact-free rant in the Missoulian today.

Johnson opens by suggesting that we not even consider raising taxes or eliminating subsidies for the poor, put-upon oil and gas industry, because they don’t receive subsidies. He writes:

Let me break it to you, the oil and gas industry is not subsidized – that is, they don’t receive direct government payments to augment their revenue stream. The industry does, however, get the same sorts of tax deductions and credits that businesses (and individuals) of all stripes receive. They get to write off the cost of doing business – otherwise they probably wouldn’t be in business.

Johnson is wrong, of course, by about $7 billion annually.  These are not the exemptions that every business and individual is entitled to, but special programs, written for oil companies, special programs that allow gas and oil companies to keep recording record profits. The net effect of these breaks? That oil companies pay about 13% in taxes, most likely a lower rate than you.The Big Five oil companies recorded a profit of $93 billion last year—and they are the people Johnson wants to protect?

It takes a remarkably tone-deaf and unaware politician to cry for mercy for giant corporations that have been making record profits for years, but it’s a clear sign of what Mr. Johnson’s priorities will be if he is elected to the PSC.

In the end of his piece, Johnson circles back to what was the ostensible purpose of his rant, to discuss the Highway Trust Fund:

Higher taxes on energy producers is not a realistic solution to fix the problems with the Highway Trust Fund or any of the other myriad fiscal holes our federal government has managed to dig. 

And that’s the extent of his solution: to criticize government spending and not offer any policy proposals to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure. 

Johnson also ignores the fact that the gas tax hasn’t changed since 1993, in large part because Republicans refuse to govern responsibly. As a result, our highways and bridges are in terrible shape and we lack the money to fix them. According to Norm Orstein, the failure to raise the tax since the Clinton presidency has reduced its value by 40%.

If Johnson really were interested in “jobs of so many working families,” he’d support infrastructure building and a responsible Highway Tax that will sustain rebuilding our nation’s critical highways, bridges, and more. Sensible political leaders, unlike Johnson, know that when we allocate resources for infrastructure, we not only create jobs, but leave valuable channels for future commerce behind. 

Brad Johnson was a disaster as Montana’s Secretary of State, he was a menace on our highways, and now he’s sending signals to his friends in the energy sector that he’d be a lapdog on the PSC. 

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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