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("Quid coniuratio est?")
JIM HIGHTOWER: JULY 2, 1996
The debonair Fred Astair once observed, "The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing them."
Good manners!? How about basic ethics? What are kids to think when they're told to "play by the rules," but then they see major oil companies getting away with cheating American taxpayers and other school children?
I'm talking about Texaco, Shell, Mobil, Arco, Chevron, Exxon and others, who just underpaid the government by almost a billion dollars for oil they've taken from federal lands in California. The watchdog group called "POGO" -- Project On Government Oversight -- notes that in the fairy tale world where big oil and big government dance hand in hand, oil companies themselves are allowed to set the price on the oil they pump out of our public lands. And guess what? These oil giants have been setting the price at about 20 percent lower than market value. According to an independent audit done for the Department of Interior, ten oil companies have dodged $846 million in royalties and interest they owe to us. Of that sum, $165 million was ear-marked for California public schools -- a school system so strapped that three of its districts have declared bankruptcy.
What do you think Uncle Sam would do if you were a deadbeat tax cheat? Reach down your throat and turn you inside out, that's what.
But the Interior Department not only has looked the other way -- letting the ten oil companies make off like bandits -- but it actually is trying to get President Clinton to approve a special "statute of limitations" that would prevent future administrations from even trying to collect the $846 million they owe.
This is Jim Hightower saying, no wonder today's kids roll their eyes when adults lecture them about being "responsible citizens." "Sure," they say. "We'll follow the lead of Texaco, Shell, Mobil, Arco, Chevron, Exxon...."
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