Redefining Greed

And who else but an oil company to do such?

Exxon Mobil reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results fell well short of Wall Street expectations and shares fell in premarket trading.

Well, at least those high gas prices we’ve seen lately are now explained.  But Exxon’s shares dropped in price after they recorded the biggest quarterly profit ever?  The mind reels.  Of the stock traders and Exxon, I’m not sure which side is the lesser evil. 

15 Responses to “Redefining Greed”

  1. gcotharn says:

    Exxon earned $11.68B on 8.5% profit margin. The U.S. Government reaped 49%, or approximately $5.5B, of Exxon’s 2Q profits in the form of tax receipts. I ask:

    What do you judge to be the proper profit margin for Exxon to earn?

    By how much do you judge U.S. Government Tax Receipts from Exxon ought be diminished?

  2. gcotharn says:

    Something else: Exxon’s stock price actually took a solid negative hit today. Based on world oil prices, inverstors had expected higher profits from Exxon during 2Q.

  3. Kathy says:

    I don’t identify with Exxon.

  4. tas says:

    While I’m shelling out $40 to fill up the tank on my Yaris, remind me to be sympathetic to Exxon due to their profit margins and taxes.

    As for those taxes, aren’t they justified since somebody has to fund the military’s trips to procure oil in the Middle East?

  5. gcotharn says:

    My first point was: profit is good. 8.5% is not a robber baron profit margin. Exxon is not earning their profit nefariously. Exxon’s profit drives our economy and funds our government. When Exxon makes less profit: Americans are poorer for it; Americans overall are sicker and hungrier.

    From my perspective(a right side perspective), it seems many on the left (not necessarilly you guys, personally) and in media view the economy as a fixed pie, i.e. when one slice is bigger, everyone else’s slice is smaller.

    From the right (and, at one time, from the left), we view the economy as about production and synergy: a rising tide lifts all boats. JFK said that.

    The more goods and services and wealth which are produced, the more goods and services and wealth which are then churned through the economy, again and again, at faster and faster rates, to the benefit of all.

    Production and wealth help everyone. Wealth puts food on tables, funds the government, funds means to create more wealth, funds private charities, funds American wheat and corn for hungry people all over the world, funds American technology which benefits people all over the world. Less wealth means everyone thrives less and suffers more. More wealth means everyone thrives more and suffers less.

    My second point, about Exxon’s profit being lower than anticipated, struck me as a bit of evidence either of the unseriousness or of the deliberately misleading intent of those public figures who criticize profit. I was not suggesting Exxon deserves sympathy.

    I do say this: Exxon is all of us. Our friends work for Exxon. My beloved cousin works for Chevron. You likely have 401Ks which are solidly invested in Exxon and Chevron, et al. When Exxon is makes less profit, it hurts us all, and in fact it hurts people all over the world.

    I apologize for the preachiness. I’m not a professional writer, and I don’t know how to communicate those thoughts in less preachy fashion. If you disagree with me, I at least appreciate your trying to understand where I am coming from. If you wish to damn Exxon for various environmental mis-steps, or for other corporate sins … who knows: I might join my voice with yours. The management of Exxon is as imperfect as my writing skills. It’s just that I disagree with damning profit. In a free market economy, profit is good. Profit is a contribution to one’s fellow man. When profit is evidence of hard work and shrewd judgment: profit is evidence of morality.

  6. gcotharn says:

    BTW, my cousin is a senior engineer at Chevron. If it makes you feel better: he’s sat in on many meeting with engineers and management from Exxon. He’s thinks the Exxon guys are, much of the time, arrogant assholes. Heh.

  7. Kathy says:

    Tas, I have a Yaris, too!

  8. Kathy says:

    Nobody damns profit, gco. There’s a difference between making a profit, and making profits more important than everything else. There’s a difference between a reasonable profit and an obscene profit. Moderation and balance in all things is a good philosophy.

  9. gcotharn says:

    The problem is – and I mean this in a serious, nonconfrontational, friendly fashion: who decides?

    Who decides what is reasonable and what is obscene? Who can forsee future events so perfectly as to coach Exxon to a perfect … what… 3%(?)… profit margin every quarter, no matter what market conditions exist?

    3% profit margin would be approx. $4B profit in 2008’s 2Q, with $2B going to the U.S. Government as tax revenue. Who decides the government should receive $3.5B less in tax revenue during 2008’s 2Q? Would 3% margin, $4B 2Q profit assuage the public leaders who now criticize Exxon? Would it be reasonable and non-obscene enough to assuage you and TAS? If $4B profit is reasonable this quarter, how do we decide what is reasonable 6 months from now? 2 years from now? Who sets future schedules of reasonable vs. unreasonable profit?

    Who decides? Who has near perfect grasp of future conditions? This is a problem.

  10. gcotharn says:

    I just saw Barack’s “give $1000 to everyone” plan. I now see the answer to my question: Barack decides. I was silly for ever asking. I retract everything I wrote in the previous comment. If I could still edit, I would delete it all.

  11. Kathy says:

    As far as I am aware, you CAN still edit, or delete, whatever you wish. And you have characterized Obama’s proposal incorrectly. Can’t say I’m shocked.

  12. gcotharn says:

    As far as I can tell, the blog allows me to edit for 5 minutes after I post.

    It’s true I quick-characterized Barack’s proposal incorrectly, moments after I noticed it, as I was going for the quick irony. BUT, you are wrong that I have played fast and loose with facts in my comments. I have not. I absolutely reject your accusation. I suspect you are confusing your own opinions with truth.

    It’s okay that you think my opinions are idiotic, as I think the same about your opinions. It’s okay that you call me names, as I could care less about that. It’s not okay when you accuse me of misrepresenting fact. That is unfair, untrue, and frankly hallucinatory. I have done you the honor of disagreeing with you incredibly strongly, yet still being scrupulous about my factual assertions, and refraining from ad hominem. In fact, the only names I remember calling you were in this comment: confusing your opinion with fact, and hallucinatory. I don’t think those are completely over the line, given that you called me a liar.

  13. Kathy says:


    You’re correct about the Edit feature. It’s only unlimited for contributors, and I was forgetting that because I was seeing the way it looked on my screen and thinking it looked that way for everyone.

    That said, I can always delete your comment for you if you’d like.

    I have not accused you of misrepresenting fact in any context where you were not doing so. Of course that, as is true of much of what we all write here, is my opinion — but it’s certainly opinion I can back up if you want to give me a specific example.

  14. gcotharn says:

    It occurred to me, as I was exercising this morning: I committed some poor reading comprehension yesterday, and made some poor choices about my comments here.

    I speed-read and misread news of Obama’s give-people-money plan, then commented on my wrong understanding here. Sloppy.

    Secondly, I thought you were calling me a liar. You were not. I apologize for falsely accusing you. Instead, you were unsurprised at my mischaracterization of an issue.

    This could mean you think I intentionally, deceptively mischaracterize various matters. I don’t think you think that.

    Rather, I think you think I mischaracterize out of ignorance. That is a completely fair accusation for you to make, and I am ashamed to have originally misunderstood it. I can only plead that I misuderstood during a moment of massive human imperfection. I can only acknowledge that I was, in fact, mischaracterizing out of misguided ignorance!

    As to the fact thing, aka the drawing of distinction between fact and opinion:
    I’m confident you’ve never accused me of intentionally misrepresenting fact. I’m confident b/c, had you done so, I would’ve vigorously, loudly, and memorably protested.

    At this moment of history, our society clings to opposing understanding of “fact” in various instances. There may have been instances where you and I said: we disagree about the facts in this instance. However, I doubt either of us believe the other maliciously misrepresents fact. I know I don’t believe that about you.

  15. Kathy says:

    That was classy, gcotharn. Thank you.

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