BARTON DEMANDS BILLIONS IN AID FOR BIG OIL…. Last summer, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) made quite a name for himself, apologizing to BP after its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As he saw it at the time, President Obama was being too mean to BP, demanding accountability and action, so the right-wing Texan wanted the company to know how sorry he was.

It was pretty outrageous, even by Republican standards. But to my mind, Barton’s defense of taxpayer subsidies to extremely-profitable oil companies might actually be worse. (via Brian Beutler)

As the oil and gas industry gears up to fight that effort, it has no better friend than Representative Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton made a splash when he apologized to BP CEO Andrew Hayward and called the Obama Administration’s investigation of BP a “shakedown.”

Barton knows the industry well. He worked for the Atlantic Ridgefield Oil and Gas Company before he was elected to Congress in 1984.

We caught up with Barton at his Congressional office and asked him why he is still defending tax credits to an industry making record profits.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl noted that the taxpayer subsidies the oil industry receives are relics, which seem hard to defend in the 21st century. Barton initially argued, “Do you want everything made in China?” I’m not at all sure what argument he was trying to make with this.

So Karl pushed further, asking if there was any credible threat of major oil companies going out of business if they stopped receiving taxpayer subsidies. “Over time if you put so many disincentives against any U.S. manufacturing or production company, or oil and gas exploration company, they’ll go out of business,” Barton said.

Pressed further on whether he has trouble defending subsidies to an oil industry that’s already enjoying enormous profits, Barton said the money we throw at them is acceptable “so long as you believe that you believe in the free market capitalist system.”

That’s borderline insane. If ExxonMobil is still relying on our generous subsidies, that’s not an example of a free market capitalist system working — it’s an example of government intervention in the marketplace.

Barton went on to argue in defense of Big Oil, “We should treat them equally, not specially, but equally.” That sounds nice, except we’re not offering tens of billions of dollars in subsides to every other industry, which makes the argument gibberish.

The entire display is just breathtaking. Policymakers are desperate to lower the deficit, and President Obama and Democrats note that we can save $46 billion over 10 years if we end subsidies to an oil industry that clearly doesn’t need them. That’s not just my opinion, former Shell Oil CEO John Hofmeister recently acknowledged reality, conceding that his industry simply doesn’t need the government aid.

Regrettably, congressional Republicans refuse to agree. Just last week, literally every member of the House Republican caucus opposed a Democratic effort to end these billions of dollars in subsidies.

As far as the GOP is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with cutting education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and national security, just leave Big Oil alone.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.