Editorial: Obscene profits may pave way for reform (Burlington Free Press)

The news that Exxon Mobil posted the "fattest" quarterly profit ever came at an unforgiving time for Vermonters as the state's economy continues to tank.

The profit was $11.7 billion in the second quarter.

Repeat: $11.7 billion.

Outraged? Of course, how else should we react?

Here we are, struggling to figure out how to pay to keep warm as the price of home heating oil is projected to move well beyond the means of low-income Vermonters as well as those in the middle class who live on the edge.

Here we are, worrying about stocking the shelves of food banks as more people seek help while having to choose between keeping warm and keeping their families fed.

Adding salt to the wound, Exxon Mobil stock dropped 5 percent -- because Wall Street expected even bigger profits.

Let's repeat that: Wall Street expected bigger profits.

Who are these people, and how do they get away with suggesting that the American consumer ought to cough up even more money at the pump or for home heating fuel?

Isn't this what Wall Street is saying?

Sen. Bernie Sanders attacked the big investment banks for speculating on energy futures to drive up the price of oil. Didn't we just go through such shenanigans with mortgages? Washington's laissez-faire policy allowed the financial industry to make bad loans, completely ignored by federal regulators until we reached a crisis that American taxpayers are now paying to unravel.

These are the kinds of profits and unrealistic expectations that shake the foundations of political acquiescence. They lead to a call for uncompromising political reform from the grassroots, so hard to mobilize until they declare, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!"

As war drags on in the Middle East for longer than World War II, as we argue over energy policy and stop legislative prospects for alternatives to oil because of an itch to drill offshore, as the word "profiteer" is bandied about as if this is the new norm, we need to keep this in mind:

We are a democracy that can change the rules when they need to be changed. What we should be looking out for is the welfare of Americans in need, not the welfare of Exxon Mobil. It is always the excess that paves the way for change.

We have seen proposals for energy reform come and go. We have heard the ranting and ravings by all political parties on what they say is the best policy.

It's time for us, Americans, to decide we've had enough of market exuberance -- or else we will pay again.

American democracy is better than this.