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Posts Tagged ‘business’

Jacobson: We have Warren to thank

Posted by Richard on July 19, 2012

Law prof William Jacobson noted that Obama’s attack on entrepreneurs was an echo of an earlier anti-capitalist, anti-individualist rant by Elizabeth Warren. Honest injun! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) He has video of Warren’s rendition and Obama’s take, along with a Romney response and the Romney internet ad I posted earlier. And he thinks this could cost Obama the election:

This collectivist view of our economic system is alien to the vast majority of Americans. It is beyond class warfare, which is the envy of others who are more successful. Obama has attacked success, not just the successful.

Obama has hitched his wagon to an alien ideology touted by a tainted candidate who might be too liberal even for Massachusetts.

I don’t think this is going away. It is a theme handed to Romney on a silver platter, a silver platter built, of course, on roads the rest of us paid for.

It is a game changer. And we have Elizabeth Warren to thank for it.

Update:  Paul Mirengoff quotes Pat Sajak as follows:

It’s as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled “potato” and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day.

Ooh, I like that! Let’s hear it for Pat Sajak!

(HT: Instapundit)

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Answering the Obama attack on entrepreneurs

Posted by Richard on July 19, 2012

The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass has answered the President’s contemptuous chiding of entrepreneurs in a personal and moving way:

When President Barack Obama hauled off and slapped American small-business owners in the mouth the other day, I wanted to dream of my father.

But I didn’t have to close my eyes to see my dad. I could do it with my eyes open.

All I had to do was think of the driveway of our home, and my dad’s car gone before dawn, that old white Chrysler with a push-button transmission. It always started, but there was a hole in the floor and his feet got wet in the rain. So he patched it with concrete mix and kept on driving it to the little supermarket he ran with my Uncle George.

He’d return home long after dark, physically and mentally exhausted, take a plate of food, talk with us for a few minutes, then flop in that big chair in front of the TV. Even before his cigarette was out, he’d begin to snore.

The next day he’d wake up and do it again. Day after day, decade after decade. Weekdays and weekends, no vacations, no time to see our games, no money for extras, not even forMcDonald’s. My dad and Uncle George, and my mom and my late Aunt Mary, killing themselves in their small supermarket on the South Side of Chicago.

There was no federal bailout money for us. No Republican corporate welfare. No Democratic handouts. No bipartisan lobbyists working the angles. No Tony Rezkos. No offshore accounts. No Obama bucks.

Just two immigrant brothers and their families risking everything, balancing on the economic high wire, building a business in America. …

Read the whole thing. Please!

And watch this Romney internet ad on the same subject:

[YouTube link]

I’ve never contributed to a Republican presidential candidate (only congressional candidates, and those mostly via Club for Growth). But I’d contribute to the Romney campaign if my contribution could be earmarked toward airing that ad on TV.

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Investing QOTD

Posted by Richard on May 7, 2012

My nominee for investing quote of the day is from Brian Hunt:

… When you buy a stock because it is highly rated by Wall Street firms, it’s like buying a used car that is rated highly by the majority of used car salesmen on the lot.

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Boeing opens South Carolina Dreamliner assembly plant

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2011

On Friday, ignoring a lawsuit brought by the Obama thugs running the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing opened its new $750 million final assembly plant in North Charleston, SC:

Under a blistering sun and facing a heated court battle, Boeing snipped the ribbon Friday on its new 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston six months ahead of schedule.

Company officials, politicians and workers hailed the aerospace giant's $750 million production facility as the start of a new era in the Lowcountry.

"Everybody is so geared up," said Raffie King, of Summerville, who works in Boeing's emergency operations. "This is our house. That's what we call it."

To the loud roar of applause from the hundreds of workers and guests seated and standing outside the cavernous facility the size of 11 football fields, Boeing Vice President and General Manager Jack Jones said, "This building is open for business."

The building is something else. It can hold two rows of four jumbo jets. 

One thing rarely mentioned in the media coverage of the NLRB-Boeing story: the new Charleston location, like the existing Everett, Washington, assembly plant, is just where final assembly of the planes takes place. The incredible array of components that make up the plane is manufactured at Boeing and subcontractor facilities throughout the country (North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota, …) and across the globe (Canada, Japan, UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, …). We live in a global economy, folks, and we're all better off because of it (per Ricardo's law of comparative advantage).  

In fact, the aft quarter of the 787's revolutionary fiber composite fuselage is built by Vought Aircraft Industries right next to the new Charleston plant:

The first pieces of the 787 wide-body jet, other than the aft and mid-body sections built next door, will arrive next month as 4,000 workers already hired begin to piece together the first completely assembled model of the airplane outside of Washington state.

"This is the first time we are actually going to send an aft and mid-body across the street instead of 3,000 miles away," Jones said. "Lots of good things are going to happen. This is history."

Boeing is still hiring in South Carolina. And in Washington, too, as this looks to be the most successful commercial jet ever, with over 800 already on order. South Carolina, Washington, the whole country — heck, the whole world — will gain from this.

Unless there's truth to the rumor that the President is going to appoint Wesley Mouch as his new Economic Opportunity Equalization Czar, and Mouch will then declare the Dreamliner "a national resource."  

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The tyranny of the public interest

Posted by Richard on July 23, 2010

Yaron Brook in Investor's Business Daily:

In the years leading up to 2008—09's financial meltdown, government control over mortgages, interest rates and America's banking system was at an all-time high.

And yet when crisis struck, free enterprise took the blame.

The cure, therefore, was to give government even wider powers. Washington can now bail out any company, fire CEOs, override contracts and print billions of dollars to "stimulate" the economy — all in the name of the public interest. The result? Our deficits and debt continue to mount, and there's a real possibility of a future like Greece's.

This is the state of our world today. It's remarkably similar to the state of the world in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," a mystery story about a future America whose economy is disintegrating and whose government is accumulating power faster than anyone thought possible. This parallel is a big reason a record 500,000 people bought "Atlas Shrugged" last year.

So what can we learn from a book that foresaw in 1957 what few believed possible in 2007? We can learn a lesson the heroes of the novel learn: the cause of the government's greater, destructive control of business. And we can learn how to oppose it.

Read. The. Whole. Thing.

From the comments, a great quote: 

The pursuit of wealth generally diverts men of great talents and strong passions from the pursuit of power; and it frequently happens that a man does not undertake to direct the fortunes of the state until he has shown himself incompetent to conduct his own.
— Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America," 1835

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Massive tax hikes are coming

Posted by Richard on July 6, 2010

Administration spokespeople and their shills in the MSM are starting to whine that businesses are to blame for the failure of a trillion dollars in stimulus spending to actually stimulate the economy. Businesses aren't expanding or hiring or ramping up production like they should, the argument goes. Well, the reason they aren't is because they're scared!

Given the current climate in Washington, business owners fear what new regulatory burdens will be imposed on them next. And they know that on January 1, they're going to get socked with the first wave of massive tax increases. Would you invest your money to expand your business and hire new people when you don't know what new barriers and hurdles you face, and you do know you're going to pay much higher taxes in the future? No, you wouldn't. You'd hunker down and adopt a defensive posture. Which is just what American businesses are doing.

Most small businesses (the backbone of the economy and the source of most employment) are taxed at the top personal income tax rates. And those, among other taxes, are set to go up significantly when the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. Americans for Tax Reform has the gory details (emphasis in original): 

Personal income tax rates will rise.  The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed).  The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent.  All the rates in between will also rise.  Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates.  The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

– The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
– The 25% bracket rises to 28%
– The 28% bracket rises to 31%
– The 33% bracket rises to 36%
– The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family.  The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income.  The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child.  The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level.  The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax.   This year, there is no death tax.  For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million.  A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors.   The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011.  The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011.  These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

And that's just the first of three waves of tax increases that we face next year. Go to ATR to see details of the other two waves, which may be even worse. 

If the President really wants to revive the economy, he should declare his support for extending the Bush tax cuts in their entirety. And he should propose a moratorium on major new business regulations, backed with a promise to veto any bill enacting such regulations. 

But I doubt that he'll do either of those things. Because I doubt that reviving the economy is really his goal.

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Trying to fix what they don’t understand

Posted by Richard on December 3, 2009

Last week at AEI's Enterprise Blog, Nick Schulz posted about the astonishing curricula vitae of Obama cabinet members:

A friend sends along the following chart from a J.P. Morgan research report. It examines the prior private sector experience of the cabinet officials since 1900 that one might expect a president to turn to in seeking advice about helping the economy. It includes secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, and excludes Postmaster General, Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security—432 cabinet members in all.

Obama cabinet's private sector experience

When one considers that public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population, the makeup of the current cabinet—over 90 percent of its prior experience was in the public sector—is remarkable.

Remarkable, indeed — especially since cabinet officers who arguably don't need private sector experience (plus the Postmaster General, who arguably does, given the USPS's financial woes) were excluded from the data. But I suppose they're the perfect fit for a president who's proud of having turned his back on productive private-sector work.

These people have neither the experience, nor the temperament, nor the mindset to effectively deal with our current economic woes. They and their union buddies, academic associates, lackeys, and sycophants are exactly the wrong crowd to conduct Thursday's "jobs summit." As Investor's Business Daily observed:

The government, from lawmakers to bureaucrats, does not create jobs. It can move jobs from the private sector to the public through tax-and-spend wealth redistribution policies. But because government spending crowds out private investment, it is not a wealth creator and therefore cannot be a job creator.

Government is often a job killer. Economist Richard Rahn noted during the last Bush presidency that "government spending reduces more jobs in the private sector than it can create in the government sector."

"Countries with large government sectors," such as France and Germany, Rahn said, "tend to have much higher unemployment rates than countries with smaller government sectors."

Economic reality won't matter at the summit, though. What matters are appearances.

The White House wants to make a show of doing something, especially after its policies have done nothing to boost growth or stop the job losses. It would like to erase from public memory the utter failure of the $787 billion stimulus legislation approved just after Barack Obama took office. The administration knows its claim that thousands of jobs have been created or saved by the stimulus is bunk. And it knows the public knows.

But the stench of failed government solutions will remain.

Read the whole thing

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Larry the Lynx lives!

Posted by Richard on August 14, 2009

Good news! Frontier Airlines is not going away:

DENVER – Frontier Airlines announced on Thursday evening that Republic Airways Holdings won the auction for the Denver-based airline and not rival Southwest Airlines.

Frontier went up for auction on Thursday as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

"Republic submitted the highest and best bid," according to a release from Frontier. "This plan provides for Frontier and Lynx to maintain normal operations as a subsidiary of Republic."

"It's business as usual at Frontier, go ahead and book your travel for fall, winter, into next summer, we're going to be here," Frontier spokesman Steve Snyder said.

A lot of people are focusing on what the Republic victory means for Denver, the employees, customers, etc. But I'm delighted because Southwest was going to absorb Frontier. Republic will treat Frontier as a wholly-owned subsidiary. That means that Larry, Jack, Griz, Flip, Sal, Foxy, Hector, and all the other Frontier animals will remain on the tails of those planes, and the delightful and award-winning animal ads will continue. I think it's one of the best ad campaigns ever.

I just love that lynx. 

Larry the Lynx, Frontier spokescat

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Posted by Richard on February 13, 2009

Jed Babbin:

The Obama team wants to boldly take our economy where no economy has gone before. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the birth of “Trekonomics.” It’s like the old “Star Trek” series, just without the brainy, logical Vulcans.

The monstrosity known as the "stimulus" package reportedly scraps much of the highly successful welfare reform of the 90s, so I guess there'll be many more Klingons.

But as Babbin argued, instability and uncertainty in government policies are the enemies of sound business planning and a serious problem for the economy going forward. Yet, this administration is making it all up as they go along, and they don't mind saying so: 

As if to drive the instability knife deeper, Geithner did say of his new strategy, “We will have to adapt it as conditions change. We will have to try things we've never tried before. We will make mistakes. We will go through periods in which things get worse and progress is uneven or interrupted.”

This announcement was the perfect antidote to confidence: any credibility Obama and Geithner had gained in the over-hyped lead up to the announcement was vaporized.


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This can’t go on

Posted by Richard on January 23, 2009

Remember how the feds recently "bailed out" General Motors and Chrysler? That money — at least part of it — was in the form of loans. So what's GM doing with the money? Well, I wouldn't call it spending it wisely. Mark J. Perry noted today that GM is now offering 0% financing to car buyers, and pointed out what that means (emphasis in original):

Quote of the day from Jeff Macke (CNBC Fast Money contributor) via Dennis Gartman's "The Gartman Letter":

"GM has become a company that borrowed money from the U.S. government at 8% and lent it to the American public at 0%. This is not a model we would like to build upon.”

MP: And GMAC lowered credit standards at the same time it offered 0% financing.  

The late economist Herb Stein famously said, "If something can't go on forever, then it won't."

It looks like GM won't.

This bailout/stimulus crap has got to stop.

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The Corker plan

Posted by Richard on December 6, 2008

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee proposed a plan for how to bail out the "Little Three" (GM, Chrysler, and Ford) that doesn't suck nearly as much as what the Congressional Democrats and the Bush administration are talking about. Larry Kudlow had a good summary:

Mr. Corker wants a deal where, first, carmakers must restructure all their debt at some price, perhaps 30 cents on the dollar. But the bond owners must be satisfied so the government doesn’t have to pick up the tab. Second, Mr. Corker wants carmakers to get their worker-compensation levels exactly equal to those of the Japanese transplants in Detroit south. That means about $48 total hourly labor costs. GM’s labor costs were $73 in 2006, an estimated $69 in 2008, and are projected to be $62 in 2010. This, of course, includes pension and health benefits. If these two conditions are satisfied, Mr. Corker then believes some kind of government loan might be granted. We’ll have to wait and see where this thing goes.

I suspect it will go nowhere. The UAW, although they've recently offered both meaningful concessions (regarding the "jobs bank") and meaningless gestures ("delays" in retiree benefits funding), aren't about to OK significant permanent labor cost reductions, and that means all their congressional lackeys will completely ignore the Corker proposal.

But good for Sen. Corker for throwing it out there anyway. It would be nice to get an on-the-record up or down vote on this, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Crony capitalism

Posted by Richard on November 20, 2008

When you start handing out free money, expect a long line to form. Wall Street bankers and insurance companies have been joined in the bailout line by student loan debtors (and their creditors), domestic auto makers, states, municipalities, … I'm sure the line will get longer day by day.

The heads of the "big three" car makers were in Washington begging today (after flying there in their private jets). They were accompanied by UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, who joined them in begging for taxpayer money. But Gettelfinger made it clear that the union wouldn't accept any pay or benefit cuts.

This is absurd, and the claim that the current financial crisis caused the carmakers' problems is nonsense. GM's losses have averaged more than $1.5 billion per month for years, so its share of the proposed $25 billion bailout merely lets it continue on an unsustainable course for a few more months. It's like giving someone a transfusion while their severed carotid artery continues spurting blood. 

The severed artery that the "doctors" in Congress don't want repaired is the UAW contract. Total employee compensation for the "big three" averages about $73 per hour. For the American factories of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, it's about $44 per hour.

And that cost disparity doesn't even take into account the deleterious effect of an inch-thick union contract full of bureaucratic, restrictive, and onerous work rules. Or the thousands of union members in the "jobs bank" program getting $31 an hour plus benefits to work crossword puzzles and watch TV for 40 hours a week.

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government, neatly summarized what's wrong with this bailout plan in a letter to Congressional leaders: 

“The automotive industry’s problems cannot and should not be passed on to the American taxpayer. And they will only be compounded if the federal government now offers billions of dollars of taxpayer-financed loan guarantees to companies that would otherwise file for bankruptcy,” Wilson wrote in the letter.

“These taxpayer loans will, by design, perpetuate these companies in their present form,” Wilson said. “However, it is the very present forms of each company that must be addressed and resolved by market forces, a process that will not occur if government gets in the way of bankruptcy.”

Newt Gingrich has a name for what's happening in Washington these days: 

There’s a term that’s commonly applied to the economic systems of some Asian and Latin American countries. It’s “crony capitalism.”

Crony capitalism is when government controls significant parts of the economy. Under this kind of bureaucratic micromanagement, politicians — not the free market — call the shots. And that means that the decisions that control the economy are of necessity political decisions, not economic ones.

Crony capitalism is bad for government. Economic power in the hands of politicians breeds corruption. 

Crony capitalism is bad for democracy. Individuals and businesses outside favored industries have an unequal voice in self-government.

Crony capitalism is bad for business. Politicians wedded to the status quo stifle growth and innovation.

And there’s one more thing about crony capitalism: It’s come to America.

Read the whole thing. Then contact your senators and representative and tell them, "Enough! No more bailouts! No more crony capitalism!"

UPDATE: The Center for Individual Freedom will blast fax the President and Congressional leaders on your behalf. But in addition (or instead), it's best to call your congresscritters' offices and tell the nice staffer whose keeping a tally of calls for and against what you think. (Oops, forgot the link — fixed now.)


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Exxon’s obscene taxes, part two

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2008

Back in February, after Exxon Mobil reported a record profit for 2007, I got tired of all the demagoguery about Exxon's "obscene profits" and posted about their obscene tax bill. Exxon paid $30 billion in taxes in 2007 — that's a tax rate of more than 40%. 

So yesterday, Exxon reported a record quarterly profit, and every news story in every medium has trumpeted that in tones ranging from barely neutral to strongly disapproving. Only a few have mentioned the tax side of the story:

The $14.8 billion earned during the third-quarter broke the Irving, Texas-based company’s own record last quarter of $11.7 billion.

Exxon said net income jumped nearly 58% to $2.86 a share in the three month period from July through September. That compares with $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, during the same period a year ago.

Profits soared while crude oil prices hit record highs in the summer, pushing gasoline prices above $4 a gallon in most areas of the U.S.

ExxonMobil’s fourth-quarter profits are expected to fall in tandem with the coinciding decline in the price of oil. A barrel of crude oil was selling for about $65 on Thursday, down from a high of $147 in July.

But record earnings translated to record taxes.

ExxonMobil, which operates within a 43.3% tax rate, paid $11.3 billion in income taxes, $9.3 billion in sales taxes and $11.85 billion in other taxes. That comes to $32.51 billion in taxes during the current quarter.

Notice that Exxon's profit grew 58% from the third quarter last year, but it's tax bill for the quarter is bigger than the total for all of last year — and more than twice the quarterly profit! Now, I'm pretty certain that's caused by a significant lumpiness in tax payments, not an actual quadrupling of their taxes. But their tax rate continues to grow, causing their taxes to become more "obscene" faster than their profits.

 I noted in February that U.S. oil companies have paid taxes at an average rate of 45% since 1977, meaning that: 

… the investors who financed all the exploration, drilling, processing, refining, and distribution (and the concomitant job creation) have had to settle for just over half the profit that their risk-taking created and made possible — and then they had to pay personal income taxes on that.

To the economically illiterate (and the envy-driven), profits are obscene. To me, 40+% taxes are obscene.

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Hanger tariff takes us to the cleaners

Posted by Richard on October 1, 2008

If you've noticed your dry cleaning bills increasing this year, here's one reason: a tariff on Chinese wire clothes hangers has doubled their price, costing dry cleaners $4,000 or more each per year. The reason for the tariff? To protect the sole U.S. hanger manufacturer, M & B Hangers of Alabama.

Mark Perry, citing a report by economist Frank Stephenson in The Freeman, illustrated the absolute stupidity of this "job protection" tariff: 

Further, Stephenson cites this analysis that divides the total cost of the hanger tariff to U.S. dry cleaners ($4,000 x 30,000 dry cleaners = $120 million year), by the number of potential domestic jobs saved (564 jobs) in the U.S. hanger industry, indicating that each American job saved costs us about $212,765 per year. Since the typical full-time worker in this sector earns about $30,000 per year, it would be cheaper for the U.S. to eliminate the tariff, purchase cheaper hangers from China, let the domestic industry die, and pay each American hanger worker $30,000 per year to retire.

Almost a quarter million dollars a year to save a $30k a year job!

Economic illiteracy, coupled with Pat Buchanan style jingoism, is incredibly costly to our economy. As Perry noted, protectionism typically costs us two jobs for every job saved, and thus punishes American consumers and businesses far more than it "punishes" the foreign country it's aimed at.

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A businessman defends profits

Posted by Richard on August 16, 2008

After Exxon Mobil reported a record 2nd-quarter profit, economic illiterates, Democrats, and leftist demagogues (but I repeat myself) fell all over themselves denouncing earnings that Obama called "outrageous." Republicans and capitalism's half-hearted, timid defenders (but I repeat myself again) mostly ducked for cover and acted as if this profit was something for which to apologize. This is unfortunate, as Investor's Business Daily noted (emphasis added):

When capitalists fail to defend the system that's done more than any other to end human misery, they make a fatal mistake. That's why it's so encouraging to see Exxon Mobil's CEO stand up for his business.


Too often, business leaders choose to duck when the arrows of outrage come flying. But Exxon Mobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson made an unusual and courageous stand Wednesday, appearing on ABC's "World News" with Charles Gibson.

"I saw someone characterize our profits the other day in terms of $1,400 in profit per second," Tillerson told Gibson.

"Well, they also need to understand we paid $4,000 a second in taxes, and we spent $15,000 a second in cost. We spend $1 billion a day just running our business. So this is a business where large numbers are just characteristic of it."

We can't think of anyone who would be willing to pay $4,000 in taxes for every $5,400 they earn in salary or wages. Yet many in our country believe it's OK, even desirable, for oil companies to do just that.

What's needed here is a bit more perspective, a sense of proportion. Though Exxon Mobil set a record for nominal profit, the oil industry isn't actually making the biggest profits.

In the first quarter of this year, the profit margin for oil companies was 7.4%. That trailed the electronic equipment industry (12.1%) and the pharmaceutical and medical industry (25.9%).

Last year, 63 industrial groups posted bigger profit margins than the oil industry.

Good for Tillerson. We need more business leaders willing to stand up for capitalism, defend profit, and speak out forcefully against their critics.

And clearly, judging by Exxon Mobil's falling share price, the oil giant needs a higher profit margin, not more taxes. 


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