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Thread: Windfall Profits for Dummies

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    Windfall Profits for Dummies

    further proof of what an abomination BO is....

    [QUOTE][B]Windfall Profits for Dummies
    May 3, 2008; Page A10[/B]

    This is one strange debate the candidates are having on energy policy. With gas prices close to $4 a gallon, Hillary Clinton and John McCain say they'll bring relief with a moratorium on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax. Barack Obama opposes that but prefers a 1970s-style windfall profits tax (as does Mrs. Clinton). [I]the same 70's when the morons refused to allow nuclear power plants to be contructed....:shakehead[/I]

    Mr. Obama is right to oppose the gas-tax gimmick, but his idea is even worse. Neither proposal addresses the problem of energy supply, especially the lack of domestic oil and gas thanks to decades of Congressional restrictions on U.S. production. [B]Mr. Obama supports most of those "no drilling" rules, but that hasn't stopped him from denouncing high gas prices on the campaign trail. He is running TV ads in North Carolina that show him walking through a gas station and declaring that he'll slap a tax on the $40 billion in "excess profits" of Exxon Mobil.[/B]

    The idea is catching on. Last week Pennsylvania Congressman Paul Kanjorski introduced a windfall profits tax as part of what he called the "Consumer Reasonable Energy Price Protection Act of 2008." So now we have Congress threatening to help itself to business profits even though Washington already takes 35% right off the top with the corporate income tax.

    You may also be wondering how a higher tax on energy will lower gas prices. Normally, when you tax something, you get less of it, but Mr. Obama seems to think he can repeal the laws of economics. We tried this windfall profits scheme in 1980. It backfired. The Congressional Research Service found in a 1990 analysis that the tax reduced domestic oil production by 3% to 6% and increased oil imports from OPEC by 8% to 16%. Mr. Obama nonetheless pledges to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, which he says "costs America $800 million a day." Someone should tell him that oil imports would soar if his tax plan becomes law. The biggest beneficiaries would be OPEC oil ministers.

    There's another policy contradiction here. Exxon is now under attack for buying back $2 billion of its own stock rather than adding to the more than $21 billion it is likely to invest in energy research and exploration this year. But hold on. If oil companies believe their earnings from exploring for new oil will be expropriated by government – and an excise tax on profits is pure expropriation – they will surely invest less, not more. A profits tax is a sure formula to keep the future price of gas higher.

    Exxon's profits are soaring with the recent oil price spike, but the energy industry's earnings aren't as outsized as the politicians seem to think. Thomson Financial calculates that profits from the oil and natural gas industry over the past year were 8.3% of investment, while the all-industry average is 7.8%. And this was a boom year for oil. An analysis by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor finds that between 1970 and 2003 (which includes peak and valley years for earnings) the oil and gas business was "less profitable than the rest of the U.S. economy." These are hardly robber barons.

    This tiff over gas and oil taxes only highlights the intellectual policy confusion – or perhaps we should say cynicism – of our politicians. [B]They want lower prices but don't want more production to increase supply. They want oil "independence" but they've declared off limits most of the big sources of domestic oil that could replace foreign imports. They want Americans to use less oil to reduce greenhouse gases but they protest higher oil prices that reduce demand. They want more oil company investment but they want to confiscate the profits from that investment. And these folks want to be President?[/B]:clapper::clapper::clapper:

    [B]Late this week, a group of Senate Republicans led by Pete Domenici of New Mexico introduced the "American Energy Production Act of 2008" to expand oil production off the U.S. coasts and in Alaska. It has the potential to increase domestic production enough to keep America running for five years with no foreign imports. With the world price of oil at $116 a barrel, if not now, when? No word yet if Senators Clinton and Obama will take time off from denouncing oil profits to vote for that.[/B]

    [/QUOTE]

    [url]http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120977019142563957.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks[/url]

    ironic Winston- you and I discussed this just last week....

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    Agreed with the op..

    But just to Clarify, HRC is worse right? She support gas tax holiday AND windfall profits tax

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    What is stopping us from getting enough oil for 5 whole years? Wow, five years!
    How about getting off oil period. That would be nice.

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    There's not enough oil in US reserves to power this country for any significant perioid of time, fact. Continuing to drill for more oil in Alaska or wherever is only delaying the inevitable, which is being bent over by foreign oil producing countries.

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    [QUOTE=cr726;2523202]What is stopping us from getting enough oil for 5 whole years? Wow, five years!
    How about getting off oil period. That would be nice.[/QUOTE]

    I don't think many would disagree with you, but baby steps first man, baby steps!

    99+% of the cars in the country run on gas. We can't switch overnight. You'd need to fundamentally shift several industries at once. We need both a long term alternative energy plan that greatly reduces or eliminates our dependence on oil AND short term strategies to ease the pain.

    It's like scientists who are seeking to cure cancer. You don't tell the cancer patient that we can't do anything because we're waiting for the perfect cure, you do what is available to be done in terms of trying to heal the patient and alleviate pain while, at the same time, having people focused on the long term cure.

    The other challenge is that "knee jerk" decisions and policies that attempt to move us off oil can and are having adverse side effects. The prices of corn and other food commodities are rising dramatically, partially due to a diversion to ethanol production. There are countries around the world where families don't even own a car and they're finding it harder and more expensive to put food on the table simply because other parts of the world are trying to feed automobiles. Then we could consider electric cars or hybrid-electric cars - What if everyone started plugging into the electric grid to charge their cars overnight? Remember the blackout in NYC a few years ago and the discovery of just how fragile the countries electrical grid may be? I'm just saying that things must be done carefully.

    My opinion is that:

    1. We shouldn't rush into things that could have adverse effects that no one has thought of.
    2. We need to have both a long term plan to reduce or eliminate our dependence on oil as well as short term strategies to equilibrate supply/demand.
    Last edited by jetstream23; 05-04-2008 at 02:24 AM.

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    [QUOTE=KoolJet;2523289]There's not enough oil in US reserves to power this country for any significant perioid of time, fact. Continuing to drill for more oil in Alaska or wherever is only [B]delaying the inevitable[/B], which is being bent over by foreign oil producing countries.[/QUOTE]

    Question: With no other national energy alternative and infrastructure in place should we try to rush the inevitable rather than delay it?

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    We should have a windfall profits tax on Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, anyone selling bottled water, AMD, Safeway. Who do these companies think they are making a profit on the backs of American consumers. I had to pay for toilet paper the other day. WTF.

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    [QUOTE=CTM;2523184]Agreed with the op..

    But just to Clarify, HRC is worse right? She support gas tax holiday AND windfall profits tax[/QUOTE]

    The difference between Hillary and Obama is Hillary is just pandering, Obama really is a Commie.:D

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    I think it helps to understand why the WPT came into being (it was an attempt by Ford to transition from Nixon price-controls and left to Carter to enact) and why it didn't work. The real question for Obama is: how will your WPT be different from the previous one? Will it be administrated better? (the first was incredibly abstruse and expensive to collect) Will it close the loopholes by which producers essentially sidestepped much of the effect of the tax? How long would it be in effect? (will it be titrated to oil prices?) How is a WPT better than simply targeting oil company abuses and making them own up? (i.e., price gouging).

    Here's an article that helps give the background on the original WPT and what went wrong....

    [I]Tax History Project

    Historical Perspective: The Windfall Profit Tax -- Career of a Concept
    by Joseph J. Thorndike

    Date: Nov. 10, 2005




    Last week, amid much grumbling about record profits, Congress summoned oil executives to Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers warned darkly of a tax on windfall profit, and even a few Republicans endorsed the idea. It's enough to give a petrocrat pause. (For related coverage, see Doc 2005-22918 [PDF] and 2005 TNT 217-3 .)

    Not so very long ago, lawmakers made good on that sort of threat. From 1980 to 1988, the nation levied a special tax on domestic oil production. Given the unhappy results, a repeat seems unlikely. But it's still a tale worth telling.


    What's in a Name?


    Let's get one thing straight: The oil levy imposed in 1980 was called the "crude oil windfall profit tax" (WPT). Note the singular "profit," a useful reminder that this tax should never be confused with the "excess profits tax" imposed during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. "The windfall profits tax has nothing to do, in fact, with profits," observed The Washington Post in 1979. "It is an excise tax -- that is, a tax on each barrel of oil produced."
    In 1980 Congress enacted the WPT when it ended oil price controls. The controls were a remnant of President Richard Nixon's general wage and price freeze, implemented in 1971. While most of Nixon's price controls expired in 1973, Congress extended oil regulation through 1981. Worried over the rising cost of home heating oil as well as a general run-up in world petroleum prices, legislators decided to keep a lid on domestic oil prices.

    From the start, opponents worked tirelessly to abolish oil price controls. Most plans for repeal included some sort of windfall profit tax, either as a sop to disaffected lawmakers or as part of a genuine effort to balance the scales of economic justice. In 1974 President Gerald Ford proposed such a compromise, and the Senate Finance Committee approved a version of the WPT in 1975. Ultimately, however, it fell to President Jimmy Carter to make the bargain stick. In April 1979 he introduced plans to lift price controls gradually over the subsequent 18-month period. In tandem, he offered a new tax on oil production. "Unless we tax the oil companies, they will reap huge and undeserved windfall profits," Carter declared in a nationwide address. Americans had a right to recapture some of that windfall and put it to good use. Carter suggested that the revenue be earmarked for mass transit, oil price relief for poor families, and the development of alternative energy sources.


    Structure of the Tax


    After considerable wrangling, Congress agreed, and on April 2, 1980, Carter signed the WPT into law (P.L. 96-223). Lawmakers had imposed an excise levy on domestic oil production, taxing the difference between the market price of oil and a predetermined base price. The base price was derived from 1979 oil prices, and it required annual adjustments for inflation and state severance taxes. (For an excellent description of the tax, its structure, and its legislative odyssey, see the fine postmortem published in 1990 by Salvatore Lazzari of the Congressional Research Service, Doc 90-6824 or 90 TNT 198-43 .)
    Virtually all domestic oil production was subject to the tax. (Some types of oil were exempt, including any owned by state and local governments, qualified educational or charitable organizations, or some Indian tribes and individuals.) Every barrel of taxable oil was assigned to one of three categories. Those "tiers," which were derived from similar classifications in the oil price controls, were based on the age of the oil well, the type of oil produced, and the amount of daily production. Each tier had its own tax rate and its own base price. Tax burdens also varied according to the type of producer; independent companies paid a lower rate than major, integrated producers. Taken together, those various factors produced a range of rates from 15 percent to 70 percent.

    The WPT was collected on the first sale of taxable oil, typically when a producer sold a barrel to a refiner. The refiner was required to withhold applicable tax from the payment to the producer and deposit the money semimonthly into an account. The purchaser filed quarterly returns reflecting those collections.

    The WPT was explicitly designed to be temporary. While the legislation allowed for some flexibility, the tax was slated to disappear over a three-year period beginning sometime between 1988 and 1991, depending on revenue yields. As it happened, those yields would speed up the levy's disappearance.


    Arguments For and Against


    Supporters of the WPT believed that deregulation would deliver enormous profits into the greedy hands of a rapacious oil industry. Sound familiar?
    In the late 1970s, oil prices were expected to increase dramatically once controls disappeared. Regulated prices were pegged as low as $6 per barrel, while global prices had climbed to almost $30. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, lifting the price controls would produce $1 trillion in new revenue for oil producers between 1980 and 1990. Profits were expected to rise by more than $400 billion over the same period.

    Many lawmakers considered such an increase wholly unjustified, especially since many Americans were already struggling with higher energy bills and occasional shortages. Prices had already climbed dramatically over the previous decade, a result of the OPEC oil embargo, the Iranian Revolution, and a continuing increase in demand. In the face of so much consumer pain, oil companies could not be allowed to pocket their enormous profits. Some sort of tax was necessary to stem the "immense transfer of cash" from consumers to oil companies, declared The New York Times. "Legislators who sit by idly while oil profits soar will have to answer to the voters," the editors warned.

    Some advocates of the WPT believed that Americans had a right to share in oil company profits; when the nation's natural resources were exploited, some of the earnings belonged to the people. Advocates also contended that oil companies were shirking their fiscal responsibilities. The industry was blessed with low effective tax rates, largely as a result of two key preferences: the percentage depletion allowance and the expensing of intangible drilling costs. The WPT would help offset such unjustified -- and controversial -- subsidies.

    Finally, noted CRS analyst Lazzari, budgetary pressures made any new revenue source very attractive. Between 1961 and 1979 the federal budget had run a deficit in every year but one. With preenactment revenue projections for the WPT running at roughly $225 billion for 1980 to 1991, money was a vital consideration.

    Those arguments notwithstanding, the WPT had more than its share of opponents. Most notably, Ronald Reagan had attacked the WPT while campaigning for the presidency in 1980. Once in the White House, he consistently supported repeal. But in the face of a series of repeal attempts, the WPT stayed on the books. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986 left the levy intact, despite Treasury support for repeal (and the bill's rollback of the industry's other tax preferences).

    By 1988, though, opposition had grown to a fever pitch. The tax eventually succumbed to its own disappointing results. It had proven to be a heavy administrative burden, both for taxpayers and the IRS. Oil industry representatives claimed annual compliance costs of $40 million to $50 million. Press reports suggested the IRS was spending as much as $15 million to collect the tax. Overall, it was a heavy cross to bear, complained oil executives. In 1984 a General Accounting Office report called the WPT "perhaps the largest and most complex tax ever levied on a U.S. industry."

    Worse, the tax had yielded less revenue than anticipated throughout its existence -- and none at all in its later years. Oil prices had failed to continue their dramatic rise; between 1980 and 1986, they had fallen from $30 to just $10 per barrel. Meanwhile, the WPT's "base price" -- used to calculate tax liability -- had continued to rise with inflation, as required by law. Squeezed from both sides of the equation, the tax had become a negligible source of revenue.

    In its eight years of existence, the WPT raised $79 billion in revenue, the CRS later reported. But since those payments were deductible against income, affected companies enjoyed a lower burden under the regular corporate income tax, effectively reducing the net yield to about $40 billion -- a far cry from early hopes.

    Meanwhile, domestic oil production had fallen to its lowest level in 20 years. While demand had continued to rise, domestic producers had fallen behind in the search for new oil reserves. As a result, the United States had increased its reliance on foreign oil supplies. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the United States had derived about 32 percent of its energy from foreign sources in 1983. By 1986 that figure had climbed to 38 percent. Some analysts expected the trend to continue, although not everyone believed that taxes were driving the dynamic.

    WPT opponents complained loud and long about this burdensome but unproductive tax. "As long as the tax is not being collected, the accounting requirements are needless," complained former Democratic senator from Oklahoma David Boren in 1988. "They result in heavy burdens for the private sector and unnecessary cost to the taxpayer." Those arguments were particularly resonant as the oil industry struggled through one of its deepest slumps. Lawmakers from leading oil states were eager for repeal.

    In August 1988 Congress agreed to repeal the tax. Few mourned its passing. "Time for the windfall tax to fall," declared its erstwhile champions at The New York Times. Events had overtaken the levy, as so often happens with narrow taxes designed to deal with transient phenomena. Did oil companies deserve to keep their windfall profits? "It was a resentful question when Americans waited two hours in gasoline lines and Saudi princes summered in Monaco," the Times recalled. "It seems almost quaint now." [/I]

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    If Obama is a commie then I hope he uses his dictator skills in Iraq.

    [QUOTE=Winstonbiggs;2523386]The difference between Hillary and Obama is Hillary is just pandering, Obama really is a Commie.:D[/QUOTE]

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    If only we could hear what these candidates really think.....:rolleyes:

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    Obama would need to lay out how this plan would succeed where the previous one failed. It's hard to understand how a further tax on oil companies will solve the problem on pricing. Oil companies will spend a tremendous amount of money to avoid such taxes, it will likely affect short term investment in current drilling projects, and it will be in all likelihood uweildy to administer. Anyway, as far as the consumer is concerned, about 45% of the price of gas at the pump is a result of federal and state taxes (mostly state, although it varies) and that tax rises and falls with prices. I'm not arguing for a knee-jerk reduction is taxes, as it is linked to infrastructure repair and building and a kind of disincentive for owning gas hogging vehicles, for which Americans in particular seem to have an unholy passion.

    Energy policy would seem to me to be best driven by an incentive system for oil companies to redirect investment in alternative fuel research/production -- and by stepping up the transition to alternative fuel driven cars -- natural gas, electric, biofuel, etc -- and fast-tracking of development and conversion to wind/solar/clean nuclear power sources.

    Answers here are difficult. How do we become less addicted to oil without bearing a heavy burden in transition expenses at the consumer level? How do we change the culture of America that believes driving an SUV is a constitutional right equivalent to owning a gun? One idea would be for the government to give tax incentives for purchasing a hybrid vehicle... make it cheaper, not more expensive to buy one. Expand subsidies for conversion to home energy using solar panels. That sort of thing. This would be a good thread for the powerful minds at JI to brainstorm what might actually work to solve the problem. :yes:

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    [QUOTE=Winstonbiggs;2523385]We should have a windfall profits tax on Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, anyone selling bottled water, AMD, Safeway. Who do these companies think they are making a profit on the backs of American consumers. I had to pay for toilet paper the other day. WTF.[/QUOTE]

    don't forget starbucks....although they are b!tchin as profits are down....

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    [QUOTE=jetstream23;2523303]I don't think many would disagree with you, but baby steps first man, baby steps!

    99+% of the cars in the country run on gas. We can't switch overnight. You'd need to fundamentally shift several industries at once. We need both a long term alternative energy plan that greatly reduces or eliminates our dependence on oil AND short term strategies to ease the pain.

    It's like scientists who are seeking to cure cancer. You don't tell the cancer patient that we can't do anything because we're waiting for the perfect cure, you do what is available to be done in terms of trying to heal the patient and alleviate pain while, at the same time, having people focused on the long term cure.

    The other challenge is that "knee jerk" decisions and policies that attempt to move us off oil can and are having adverse side effects. The prices of corn and other food commodities are rising dramatically, partially due to a diversion to ethanol production. There are countries around the world where families don't even own a car and they're finding it harder and more expensive to put food on the table simply because other parts of the world are trying to feed automobiles. Then we could consider electric cars or hybrid-electric cars - What if everyone started plugging into the electric grid to charge their cars overnight? Remember the blackout in NYC a few years ago and the discovery of just how fragile the countries electrical grid may be? I'm just saying that things must be done carefully.

    My opinion is that:

    1. We shouldn't rush into things that could have adverse effects that no one has thought of.
    2. We need to have both a long term plan to reduce or eliminate our dependence on oil as well as short term strategies to equilibrate supply/demand.[/QUOTE]

    BINGO!!!

    once the first drill bit pierces the ground on American soild oil prices worldwide go down....

    [QUOTE=long island leprechaun;2523434]

    Energy policy would seem to me to be best driven by an incentive system for oil companies to redirect investment in alternative fuel research/production -- and by stepping up the transition to alternative fuel driven cars -- natural gas, electric, biofuel, etc -- and fast-tracking of development and conversion to wind/solar/clean nuclear power sources.

    [/QUOTE]


    alternative energy sources are a great idea yet it is not the obligation of oil companies to find them- anyone with an ounce of ingenuity in the field can take the ball and run with it....everyone hates the oil companies yet everyone wants them to find the alternative solution....doesn't make a whole hell of a lotta sense...
    Last edited by Come Back to NY; 05-04-2008 at 09:18 AM.

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    [QUOTE=Winstonbiggs;2523385]We should have a windfall profits tax on Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, anyone selling bottled water, AMD, Safeway. Who do these companies think they are making a profit on the backs of American consumers. I had to pay for toilet paper the other day. WTF.[/QUOTE]

    The mother****ing government takes my ****ing money...why should they be any different.

    Has Motorola or Intel paid the millions of back taxes they owe yet? Guess what the government does to me if I don't pay my taxes?

    Don't want to pay windfall taxes....MOVE TO FRANCE!

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    [QUOTE=Come Back to NY;2523442]BINGO!!!

    once the first drill bit pierces the ground on American soild oil prices worldwide go down....




    alternative energy sources are a great idea yet it is not the obligation of oil companies to find them- anyone with an ounce of ingenuity in the field can take the ball and run with it....everyone hates the oil companies yet everyone wants them to find the alternative solution....doesn't make a whole hell of a lotta sense...[/QUOTE]

    The reason I stated this is because oil companies are actually the major players in alternative energy right now. I figure, since they're already in the game in a big way, give them incentives to redirect additional research money toward renewable energy solutions.... i.e., give them a tax break for every dollar that goes to alternatives. I would expand that to other players as well. The government should be encouraging private research and development in a major way. That's what energy policy is all about. I don't think we disagree on this issue.... except perhaps on global warming and the greenhouse effect ;)

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    [QUOTE=jetstream23;2523304]Question: With no other national energy alternative and infrastructure in place should we try to rush the inevitable rather than delay it?[/QUOTE]

    Here's the thing. If we delay the inevitable by drilling for more oil today (assuming there is actually more oil to drill for), the current focus/funding on alternatives to oil could stop, much like it did in the 1980's under Reagan, especially if a large amount of oil is found causing gasoline to become cheap again (like it was in the 80's).

    If some people didnt have their heads up their a**es a national alternative to oil (such as hydrogen, among others) could replace oil within the next 10 years. But It will take alot of money and commitment, something that probably would not happen if gasoline became affordable again.

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    [QUOTE=long island leprechaun;2523642]The reason I stated this is because oil companies are actually the major players in alternative energy right now. I figure, since they're already in the game in a big way, give them incentives to redirect additional research money toward renewable energy solutions.... i.e., give them a tax break for every dollar that goes to alternatives. I would expand that to other players as well. The government should be encouraging private research and development in a major way. That's what energy policy is all about. I don't think we disagree on this issue.... except perhaps on global warming and the greenhouse effect ;)[/QUOTE]

    my larger point is every one wants to scream about alternative sources of energy...so they should do something about it...

    the seemingly reliance and expectance of oil companies to find alternative sources is common talk which reaches farther then this board...

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    [QUOTE=cr726;2523202]What is stopping us from getting enough oil for 5 whole years? Wow, five years!
    How about getting off oil period. That would be nice.[/QUOTE]

    Easily done...just make the alternative cheaper than what we have now!

    Sure, I could go out and buy a new flex fuel vehicle, but why should I add a $400/mo auto payment to my budget and spend more for E85?

    I'm not a genius, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how stupid that is!!

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    [QUOTE=Winstonbiggs;2523386]The difference between Hillary and Obama is Hillary is just pandering, Obama really is a Commie.:D[/QUOTE]

    :akface

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