Mike Masterson: The corporate elites and their media hacks

(Response to Mike Masterson column, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, May 10, 2011)

Mike Masterson wants us to believe that oil industry profits are not high enough: they only make “a nickel on each gallon of gas”, he claims. If that number sounds suspiciously low, given near record prices of roughly $100 a barrel and $4 a gallon at the pump, it is because it is a fabrication. Let’s look at the actual figures and do the math.

According to the Energy Information Administration, US petroleum consumption in the first quarter of 2011 was 19.0 million barrels per day, a total of 1.7 billion barrels or 72 billion gallons. A nickel for each gallon would amount to $3.6 billion in oil industry profits. That’s according to Mike Masterson. Here is what they really made in profits: ten times as much! According to recent profit announcements, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips alone made $34 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011 – a huge number, up 42 percent from a year ago. Companies like Exxon make an obscene windfall profit on every barrel of oil they extract because the world market price is far above the actual cost. According to Phil Weiss of Argus Research, in the first quarter, Chevron reaped $25 in profit for every barrel of oil it sold, compared with $20 for ExxonMobil. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons so those numbers represent 48 to 60 cents per gallon. It is difficult to exactly quantify the per gallon profit because Exxon and its sister companies know how to obfuscate these numbers for example by selling their own oil to their own refinery and then to their own distributor so that profits end up being booked on the cost side of the ledger. But the record profit numbers published and celebrated by Big Oil year after year belie the paltry “nickel per gallon” fairy tale numbers.

Why do we hear media commentators like Masterson speak up in defense of unearned Big Oil profits, spreading lies on behalf of the corporate establishment? It is part of a propaganda war. Corporate elites, along with the politicians they have bought wholesale and the propaganda organizations and pundits they control, are working tirelessly on wealth redistribution – away from hardworking Americans and towards the establishment. President Obama suggested revoking $21 billion in tax payer subsidies to Big Oil – and wouldn’t you know it, the Republicans are dead opposed to such an act of fiscal sanity. Republicans, including our own Boozman and Womack, would literally take food and medicine out of the mouths of poor children (they voted to cut the Women, Infants and Children Health and Nutrition program, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month) in order to guarantee a healthy kick-back to their Big Oil and other corporate paymasters.
Ordinary Americans have been forced to make sacrifices in order to bail out and restore the profitability of the financial industry. We have suffered the worst economic crisis in 80 years but corporate profits have already reached, or even exceeded, their pre-crisis levels while unemployment remains at a record high, real wages are declining, the Middle Class is losing ground and tens of millions continue struggling to even survive. At the same time, the superrich are doing just fine, having secured another tax cut windfall thanks to Republican deficit racketeers.

What we need to understand is how corporate attitudes towards America have changed. For most of the post-war period, corporate interests tended to agree that some measure of shared prosperity was good for everybody – good for the country and good for their bottom line. They created jobs and paid taxes to support public investments such as education and infrastructure, supported a strong and vibrant middle class, kept the lid on excessive inequality (CEO pay in 1965 was about 26 times the average worker’s salary, not 500 times as is common today), and tolerated the New Deal’s basic social safety net. That is no longer the case. There is now a growing fraction among the corporate establishment who don’t care anymore if the country is transformed into a failing banana republic of Third World living standards, torn apart by unmitigated inequality. They no longer have much of a stake in the common good because their profits come from plundering the economy, looting our natural resources, and pillaging the treasury. They have learned that greed is good and recklessness gets rewarded. And the Mike Mastersons of the media world are their willing accomplices.

(Note: Mike Masterson is opinion editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s Northwest edition. His editorial is accessible to subscribers only. The letter above was sent to the newspaper and was not considered for publication. My request for the newspaper to publish a factual correction was ignored.)


6 thoughts on “Mike Masterson: The corporate elites and their media hacks

  1. Pingback: Paul Greenberg’s war on science and learning « arkansasmediawatch

  2. Masterson’s columns nearly always contain factual errors, in addition to the ridiculous arguments and opinions. But Walter Hussman has never been concerned about fact-checking when it comes to his editorial board’s opinion columns.

    All the rants about “left-wing bias” in the “liberal media” ring hollow when you look at the columns by Masterson, Greenberg, Bradley Gitz, and their retinue of Faux News talking points-spouting toadies. Mike Masterson’s wife, Laurie Lee is the paid operative of an astro-turf Tea Party group led by Dick Armey (no, that’s not a porn star, that’s a former House Majority Whip from Texas).

    Paul Greenberg writes about the glorious career and life of Robert E. Lee on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, and praises the “gentlemanly” white supremacist “Justice” Jim Johnson on the event of that racist’s death.

    In the last 2 or 3 years they have printed a number of overtly white-supremacist letters to the editor with no qualification. Yet I know of folks on the left (including me) who have written LTEs to the ADG and never received an acknowledgement much less got their letters printed.

    We need to question the agenda of this paper, and I hope that this blog will become the “truth sauad” that this state has long needed to counter the anti-intellectual, counterfactual slant of the ADG. It’s one thing to be a conservative or even a radical right winger if you can base your opinions and point of view on a cogent interpretation of facts. It’s another when the primary basis of your bias is in ad hominem attacks on those with whom you disagree, and belittling the efforts of your opponents to engage in healthy and robust discourse. Insults, especially those coming from Masterson, not only debase the quality of the discourse, they deter people from engaging and offering other points of view. But we know by now that Mike’s main interest is in diatribe not discourse. In my opinion Mike’s vitriol against the left is partly a shield he uses to protect against having to defend his beliefs from the logical c criticism they deserve. That the ADG keeps him on only supports my belief that the bias is deep and wide in upper management there that they have forgotten that they are supposed to be journalists and they’ve forgotten that there are actually thinking people on the left.

    All that said, I do want to offer some compliments to the newspaper. One, I think they do take seriously their ‘watchdog’ function for elected officials and public institutions. Their coverage of the Lu Hardin scandal at UCA was remarkable as much that it was told by the ADG as it was for the criminal nature of the former school president’s misbehavior. The ADG didn’t do Central Arkansas Republicansany favors with that series. The other issue I want to thank the ADG for is their editorial stance on immigration reform. I know, I know. They want it because it’s good for business. Thats understood. But I think they also recognize that it’s a fundamental fairness issue and I congratulate them for rising above the rabble to remind the self-professed Christian anti-immigration nutcases that it just makes no sense to deport millions of people and it’s just wrong not to have compassion. While the ADG editorial board has a lot in common with Ayn Rand’s philosophy I think they haven’t totally abandoned altruism.

    I think it serves them right that they keep their opinions locked up behind their online pay wall. At least They don’t get read very much beyond the borders of the state.

    Here’s to a long run on this blog!

    • You rightly point out the fact that Masterson’s wife is a Tea Party political activist. A newspaper that cares about editorial responsibility would never put somebody like that in charge of the editorial page. This point was well made by Richard S. Drake a year ago:

      I read Mike Masterson’s column touting the recent TEA Party event in Fayetteville, and yet again promoting the work of his wife, Laurie. “What’s wrong with that, Drake, you cynical devil?” the average reader may ask.

      Other than the fact that it seems a little unseemly, I recall an episode of Lou Grant a few years ago (all right, it was arerun) when the wife of one of the paper’s editors was about to become involved in a highly charged political movement.

      The choice to made the editor was stark and simple.

      He kept his job and she withdrew from the political realm, or she was active, and he retired. Grant and the publisher felt hat it was a conflict of interest for the paper to cover a political group where an editor’s wife was such a prominent leader.

      If only FOX News carried episodes of Lou Grant. Someone at the Democrat-Gazette might have seen that episode – not that it would have made much of an impression.

  3. Thanks for the comment.

    “In the last 2 or 3 years they have printed a number of overtly white-supremacist letters to the editor with no qualification.”

    The other day they had a letter writer saying that he would have killed not only Bin Laden but also his relatives and neighbors. There is no limit to right-wing drivel deemed publishable at the ADG.

    “Yet I know of folks on the left (including me) who have written LTEs to the ADG and never received an acknowledgement much less got their letters printed.”

    When this happens, leave a comment here. Let’s try to make this a community effort for holding ADG and other media accountable.

  4. Pingback: Paul Greenberg basks in hios own smugness « arkansasmediawatch

  5. Pingback: Paul Greenberg: no more librls! | Arkansas Media Watch

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