Communism, terrorism, selling nuclear secrets: These activities have been historically described as "un-American" in congressional hearings.
Last week, James Mulva, chief executive of Houston-based ConocoPhillips, COP +0.87% tried to add a new activity to the list: asking big oil companies to give up tax breaks.
The Senate Finance Committee pulled Mr. Mulva and honchos of BP America, Chevron, CVX +0.71%Exxon Mobil XOM +0.78%and Shell into a hearing where CEOs repeated their usual sound bites: Getting rid of their cherished tax breaks would mean higher energy prices, fewer oil-industry jobs, more dependence on foreign oil, reduced competition and lower returns for shareholders.
Mr. Mulva went further, issuing a press release decrying "un-American tax proposals."
Congress needs to cut almost everything so that America doesn't end up like Greece. Making that job more difficult is $4 gasoline. New York's Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer took offense at this petroleum oligarch calling him un-American.
"Do you think people who advocate cutting student aid are un-American, too?" Sen. Schumer asked Mr. Mulva.
"Well, Senator, in that media release...nothing was intended personally," Mr. Mulva said.
"Do you think anybody who advocates cutting these subsidies is un-American? Yes or no?"
"Well..." Mr. Mulva said, and then he nervously drifted into vagaries about an "adverse impact" on "energy policy."
No one likes taxes. We can debate how to solve our looming debt crisis. But Mr. Mulva refused to retract his remark. And New Jersey's Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, sponsor of the "Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act," wouldn't let it go.
"I was hoping you were going to come here and apologize for that because that was simply beyond the pale," Mr. Menendez said. "Did you really mean to question my patriotism
COP and the the other oil companies mentioned are among the VERY highest taxpayers in this country. To indicate they are 'Un-American' is in itself UN-AMERICAN. We should all be thankful for our dometstic oil companies. They pay far more than their share of the tax load.