Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Matt Kinnaman Column

Ben & Jerry's, Big Oil, Dead Heads and World Peace
By Matt Kinnaman
Liberals are so mad about the biggest of Big Oil profits they seem ready to maim the nearest pro-profit conservative. And I'm sitting here peacefully, wondering, can't we all just get along?

After all, anyone who takes an honest look at the stats will arrive at a beautiful realization: ExxonMobil is one of humanity's greatest benefactors.

Before you go completely ballistic, get yourself calmly into a lotus position and think it over. ExxonMobil surrenders almost three times as much to government tax collectors as it keeps in profits, making it one of history's biggest funders of liberal social welfare programs. Moreover, for every dollar of revenue in Q2, ExxonMobil kept only 8.5 cents in profit. Its profit margin is 36 percent less than that of the company that owns Ben & Jerry's, our favorite socially-conscious ice cream makers.

This might be an unwelcome surprise to Lollapalooza leftists, screaming for Bush's impeachment while sucking on Peace Pops. But even worse, this profit disparity could make things mighty uncomfortable at the "Bed-in-for-Peace," a fest scheduled for Sept. 21.

It's billed as a joint effort of Ben & Jerry's, The Lennon Estate and an organization called Peace One Day. Picture it. There they all are, in bed for peace, thinking happy thoughts of world harmony. But cognitive dissonance lurks. While eating high-saturated-fat ice cream confiscated from the personal assets of poor cows and innocently poring over their guru's recent financials, they suddenly discover -- curdling scream -- "Our guys made way more money per dollar than Big Oil!" Fest over.

What next? Maybe we should bring a class action suit against Big Oil. But profit margins in the legal profession are routinely three times larger than ExxonMobil's. This is especially interesting because law practices serve as training grounds for an inordinate percentage of congressmen, who then go to Capitol Hill to penalize oil companies for their profit margins. And it's not just happy hippies and lawyers cashing in. It's the providers of wholesome lunches for suburban soccer moms and senior citizens, too. Exxon Mobil's profit margin is 174 percent lower than Campbell Soup's.

What we really need is a hearing on behalf of rational reality. When Ben & Jerry conceptualized great ice cream, they learned it couldn't be manufactured without fat-laden milk products and high-calorie sugars, even when marketing with a vegan vibe to a health-conscious crowd. Visualizing world peace is cool and all, but Ben & Jerry were also visualizing higher profit margins. It's enough to blow your mind.

Like good old Dead Heads burning gasoline to propel their gypsy caravans on cross-country road trips, the vibrant pursuit of freedom takes energy. It takes fuel. Carbon-based fuel. There is no greater current enabler of human prosperity. And ExxonMobil, the leading provider of this enabling energy, brings BTUs to both leftist insurrectionists and right wing nuts, without prejudice. And it gives them jobs, too.

ExxonMobil employs almost 81,000 people, a group of individualist humans almost assuredly comprising every possible viewpoint on the global political spectrum. In its personnel practices, the company provides an incomparable model of worldwide, multi-racial inclusion. Who's against that?

And logically, intelligently, rationally, who's against profits? Are oil company profits too high? Ice cream profits? Attorney's profits? Soup profits? Is profit bad? While ExxonMobil was making $11.7 billion last quarter, General Motors was losing $15.5 billion. Is that better?

At their Web site, Ben & Jerry's invites visitors to "upload you message of peace." I did. It says, "At this moment, when billions worldwide lack food, shelter, income and education, I envision a better tomorrow in which we will achieve greater peace through lower priced crude. Immediately opening up access to our vast, untapped domestic oil deposits will increase the standard of living of all Americans, especially the poor, and will have a positive global impact, characterized by enhanced international stability, improved prospects for economic growth and the increased generosity which flows from expanding prosperity. These are the critical elements of geopolitical peace, and the liberating catalysts of shared human well-being. Let's do it."

My message is currently under review by Ben & Jerry's "in-house Peace-Message-Keeper."

In the meantime, let's remember that "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." That's what John Lennon said. It brings to mind a dream we can dream together, of a day when politicians quit gobbling on about green consciousness and allow American companies to drill for the oil we need. Human beings everywhere would profit.

Imagine that.

Matt Kinnaman's Getting it Right column appears every week in the Transcript.