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Mon Dec 12, 2011, 06:01 PM

Sick and Poor for Christmas

Wilma lives with her retired granddad. The two of them have to make do with the grandfather’s $600/month Social Security check. $600 does not last long. Sometimes, near the end of the month they have no money for food. One week, all they had left in the house was potatoes. Potatoes! As if this is 19th century Ireland under the yoke of British colonial rule.

Wilma has a bad heart, but she can not get any help from the government. She is one of those sick people who has not been sick enough long enough to qualify for aid. When people tell Wilma “Have a merry Christmas” she grimaces. Her Christmas wishes are simple. Something to eat. Money for her medications. It would be great if she could have both.

Valero Energy Company has $37 billion in assets, according to their website. Valero has refineries all across Texas. It needs to add equipment that will remove sulfur from its products in order to comply with federal rules. It has applied for a local tax abatement that will save it tens of millions of dollars---money that will be taken out of school funds. Public schools in Texas are already strapped for cash, and schools in south and west Texas where Valero operates are not wealthy. Far from it. One of the poorest regions of the country can be found in south Texas, close to the border with Mexico. It is one of the most polluted, too. The number of children born with birth defects in that area is scary.

Years ago, the Texas state legislature attempted to encourage refineries to decrease local air pollution by promising them a tax abatement if they would install equipment to limit their local emissions. Environmental justice. Valero thinks that the school kids in the Valley should pay to limit emissions in far away cities like New York and San Francisco. That is what is known as environmental injustice . So now, the state of Texas is debating whether or not to give Valero a huge Christmas bonus for obeying federal law---while doing nothing for the kids who live in the refiner’s own backyard. No, worse than nothing. They are taking away their textbooks, their school lunches. And ten other refining companies in Texas want to do the same thing. Because they believe that they have already given too much.

"Our children's education is extremely important, but it is also important to have a fair property appraisal. Even after our exemption is granted, Valero will remain one of the largest taxpayers -- if not the largest taxpayer -- in all the areas where we have refineries."


Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich claims that food stamps are frivolous. Americans use food stamps to pay for their vacations. Newt has probably never talked to Wilma. Her granddad applied for food stamps. He was told he could get $25 a month. I wonder what kind of vacation Wilma and her grandfather can take for $25.

It’s Christmas everyday for corporate America. We, the people, just keep giving and giving until we have no more to give---and then we give a little more. Christmas only comes once a year for the rest of us. And for some of us, it never comes at all.

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