Politics, as they say, is the art of compromise. You want A, I want C, we settle on B. But there’s a trick that savvy politicians like to play. Instead of saying you want C, say you want F. Then, the compromise is C — or D. And then you have the House Republicans, who argue that the most important thing for America is Z.

And so we come to subsidies for Big Oil. On their face, the subsidies are a bad deal for the country. Giving tax breaks to the most profitable companies in the world so that they have an incentive to do the thing that makes them a ton of money — while at the same time trashing the climate? Ridiculous. But what a clever politician will do is pretend that this obviously unnecessary waste of money is crucial, dragging his point of compromise to the right, so that when he gives it up he gets as much as possible back in return.

Voilà. From Politico:

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One of Washington’s most powerful business lobbies is afraid lawmakers might just do the unthinkable: Take an ax to its billions in tax breaks.

And this time, Republicans could help swing the blade.

For giving up an outdated, unnecessary sop to a major donor group, what will the Republicans get?

Eliminating Big Oil’s tax breaks has long been a favorite cry of some Democrats, including President Barack Obama. But Mitt Romney has gotten into the act too, telling the audience at the Oct. 3 debate in Denver that he’d be willing to sacrifice at least some oil industry deductions in the context of a broader lowering of the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent.

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“Of course it’s on the table,” Romney said, citing an oil industry tax break that he estimated amounts to $2.8 billion a year. “That’s probably not going to survive [if] you get that rate down to 25 percent.”

A reduction in corporate taxes of 28.5 percent. Got it. Anything else?

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) appeared to go even further in a debate with Democratic challenger Mike O’Brien this month — saying he’d eliminate “subsidies” to oil and gas companies as well as for renewable energy.

“I’m for putting all these on an even footing,” Upton said. “Let’s look at the oil and gas subsidies and let’s take them away. Let’s let them compete just like everyone else at the same level. We can do that with the tax code to take those special provisions away.”

Ah, yes. Upton’s fake “level playing field” argument that would actually knock green energy back into a hole in the ground like a baby elephant.

Since the article is from Politico, most of the rest of it provides the petroleum industry’s arguments against giving up the subsidy. The article itself is called “Big Oil’s tax breaks on table?,” the question mark implying that the very concept of considering an end to the subsidies is bizarre.

That’s how it works. The Republicans insist that they’re immobile, until they say, “We need T!.” Then the industry says, “We need Z!” And then Democrats say, fine, we’ll give you N.

And the next time ExxonMobil writes a check to the RNC, the memo line simply reads: LOL.