Tax subsidies for Big Oil are giveaways to companies that make huge profits. The amount of subsidies that Democrats want to claw back over ten years represent 60% of what Big Oil made last quarter. Oil is traded on a global market, and the Congressional Research Service confirmed that eliminating the subsidies would have virtually no effect on gas prices. The hit to Big Oil revenues and the consumer, then, is nonexistent; and the idea of helping out billionaires with corporate welfare is totally offensive. I would rather see the money channeled into greentech rather than deficit reduction, but there’s absolutely no rationale for keeping tax subsidies for the richest corporations in the world.

Unless, that is, you’re a Senator from Louisiana or Alaska, regardless of party, and you’re protecting your big-money contributors.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich and Mary Landrieu, who represent Alaska and Louisiana, respectively, each took to the Senate floor Wednesday to decry their party’s attempt to strip tax breaks from the top oil companies.

Landrieu bemoaned the “inherent unfairness” of closing the tax loophole, insisting that doing so “will not reduce gasoline prices by one penny.”

Begich chided the party for putting message over substance. “It is a gimmick, a gimmick to get the next week of activity, and get some press out there,” he said. “Picking on one industry because it sounds good, rates good in the polls, gets you a couple of headlines is not what the American people want us to do here. If anything, they’re getting fed up with that. … Let’s stop the headline-grabbing and get serious about the energy security.”

It’s not so much headline-grabbing as it is the grabbing of $21 billion in corporate welfare from companies making record profits. That money doesn’t go into natural resource exploration or extraction, it goes right into the corporate dividend and the pockets of the CEOs.

It was inevitable that oil-producing states would get representation like this. And yet every state is a gas-consumer state. Every state is a taxpayer state. Every state has constituents who give their money to the government so a sliver of it can be handed over to the same billionaires who charge $4 a gallon for gasoline. And these billionaires are the same people who think being denied that corporate welfare is actually un-American.

That CEO, ConocoPhillips’ James Mulva, and the heads of the other top oil companies will testify today at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the subsidies. You can actually watch that hearing at the Finance Committee website. Fortunately, Mark Begich and Mary Landrieu don’t sit on the panel. But their presence in the Senate, and their fealty to the oil industry, will make it impossible to have a reasonable tax policy on this subject.