“The cost of doing business.” That’s what corporations call it when they claim a deduction from their taxes for the damage they’ve done to people and the planet. It’s a cost of doing business all right; a cost to us, of doing business with them the way we currently do it, and it’s just one of the reasons so many people are calling for a whole new system.
To recap: on April 20, 2010, BP’s leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing eleven workers and spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That rig kept spewing for 87 miserable days while reporters were kept away and the company told the public lies.
Five years on, BP’s has been found guilty of gross negligence and misconduct. They’ve been slapped with $42 billion in fines and damages. But the British behemoth’s not only threatening to pull out of the Gulf entirely if its fines aren’t reduced,they’re claiming a lot of that money back, thanks to a tax loophole that will enable BP to claim as much as 80 percent of the damages they've paid out as an ordinary business expense.
It’s not just BP either. Car makers, chemical companies, mine owners and banksters routinely deduct part of their court-ordered payouts from their taxes. That means we the people who sustained the damage, are also subsidizing the damages.
US PIRG - the Public Interest Group is petitioning the Justice Department to deny BP more write-offs. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has sponsored a bill to close the loophole. But even to talk about a loophole suggests there’s an opening in a fabric that's otherwise intact. When it comes to the public's contract with big business, that fabric has never been stitched straight.
Big business has too much power and local coffers are far too strapped. That’s dangerous for people and the planet as we saw in the gulf – and small reforms are not enough to fix it.
That’s why more and more people are looking at alternatives: not just renewable energy, but collectively owned utilities, and local not corporate control.
“There’s a revolution going on right now when it comes to local power,” Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance told us. Mitchell and a slew of Laura Flanders Show guests just signed onto “A Next System Project” launched by our colleagues at the New Democracy Collaborative. There’s no doubt more to come. But it just may be this is a great time for BP to move out. The bill for the cost of doing business big business's way just may be coming due.