Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2009

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A 'LIGHT-SWITCH TAX'.... In an apparent effort to be an even more shameless hack, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) argues in a Washington Post op-ed today that "all American families will get stuck with a new 'light-switch tax' on electricity bills that is in the president's budget."

It's not just Gregg. While President Obama cut taxes for the vast majority of Americans, a standard Republican talking point is that Obama is also raising taxes on everyone who uses electricity. The new GOP catch phrase popped up about a week ago, when the House Republican Conference said in a press release that the administration supports "a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year."

As is too often the case, the difference between Republican rhetoric and reality is overwhelming.

As Brian Beutler explained, "There is, of course, no such tax in the president's proposal or the budget resolution, and nor could there be. Obama's proposal contemplates revenue from a cap-and-trade bill, and there is a deficit neutral reserve fund for future climate change legislation in the resolution, but even that section was amended last night to provide that any increased energy costs would be offset by cap-and-trade revenue."

PolitiFact also scrutinized the Republican claim and described it as a "pants-on-fire" kind of lie.

"It's just wrong," said John Reilly, an energy, environmental and agricultural economist at M.I.T. and one of the authors of the report [cited by congressional Republicans]. "It's wrong in so many ways it's hard to begin." [...]

The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices. Moreover, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form.

The report did include an estimate of the net cost to individuals, called the "welfare" cost. It would be $30.89 per person in 2015, or $79 per family if you use the same average household size the Republicans used of 2.56 people.

The cost would grow over time as the program ramps up, but the average annual cost over time in today's dollars -- that is, the "average annual net present value cost" -- is still just $85 per person, Reilly said. That would be $215.05 per household.

A far cry from $3,128. And that isn't the only inaccuracy in the claim.

The Republican claim isn't just an error or a mistake, and it's not a subjective question open to interpretation. The GOP talking point is an obvious and transparent lie.

I'm not optimistic, but the Washington Post, which ran Gregg's blatant falsehood, should do the responsible thing here. It was wrong to publish the lie, but the paper now has the opportunity to publish a correction so readers are at least aware of the fact that the New Hampshire Republican is trying to deceive them.

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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I would advise against holding your breath, Steve.

Posted by: Run Up The Score on April 1, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

That would be something like a 200% tax on electricity. Republicans hope we can't do simple math.

Posted by: tomj on April 1, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

It's April 1. You can't believe anything written in a WP editorial on April 1.

No, wait, that's every day.

Posted by: Brock on April 1, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

As far as I can tell, according to modern standards of journalism, anything labeled as "opinion" or "analysis" is free from limitations of factual correctness or simple honesty. This is not just at the Washington Post, but generally true, even among news organizations that like to imagine themselves respectable. There's not really any point in worrying about this. The lies should be pointed out, but the fact of the lies being in a newspaper is no more significant than any other medium of bloviation.

Posted by: Richard Hershberger on April 1, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

What America needs right now is a "Pinocchio Tax." Every time Judd Gregg, or Glenn Beck, or Sarah Palin, or any of these wingnutters opens their mouth and spews an intentional distortion of the facts, they get slapped with a $5,000.00 fine by the IRS. By my estimates, we should be able to pay off the national debt, cover the trade deficit, rebuild every school and bridge in the country, and erect a 21st-century manufacturing base from coast to coast within 3 years' time.

Michelle Bachmann alone would be footing the bill for rescuing GM....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 1, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

... there is a deficit neutral reserve fund for future climate change legislation in the resolution, but even that section was amended last night to provide that any increased energy costs would be offset by cap-and-trade revenue.

You believe that?!

Posted by: marketeer on April 1, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I'm seeing a trend here. Newspaper editorial pages teeming with op-eds from lunatic, right-wing GOP idiots chock-full of blatant lies and misinformation. Liberal media my fuzzy ass.

Posted by: ckelly on April 1, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

What America needs right now is a "Pinocchio Tax."

Not a tax, a carbon sequestration program. Lotta wood tied up there.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 1, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

its amazing how they literally spin everything into a tax on something. its like its their only gimmick. Hey you do realize health care for kids is a granchild tax ,because your grandchildren will have to pay for it 60 years from now.

Posted by: osmond on April 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just GOPers on the national level playing this game.

Here in Missouri, the Fair Electric Rate Action Fund (sponsored by aluminum and other industrial businesses) has violated an agreement with the state legislature and has begun running attack ads against the local utilities proposal for a new nuclear plant. Warning sirens and flashing lights tell people about the plan to raise rates 40% to pay for it. However, the utility, which has honored the agreement to not run TV advertisements, says the increased efficiency plant could save consumers $3 billion over the long haul, while diversifying their grid.

Posted by: palinoscopy on April 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

How is the 215$ per household offset by Obama's tax cut on those making under 250k?

215$ per year is not cheap and amounts to groceries for one month for my wife and kids. If it's coming on my electric bill it's going to piss me off more than it would if I had to pay it on April 15th.

Posted by: grinning cat on April 1, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I am starting to think Judd Gregg agreeing to be in the Obama administration, then backing out within less than 2 weeks, now only to attack President's Obama's policy at every turn was premeditated, to put Gregg in the spotlight for a possible run in 2012.

Did anyone other folks from New Hampshire know who the hell Judd Gregg was before?!?!??!?!

Posted by: AhTrini on April 1, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

If only the Dems could explain some of these programs honestly and clearly in sound-bite style, preferably before the Republicans come up with another of their catchy sounding lies. The issues are extremely complicated, so it's easy to mislead not only low-information but reasonably-high-information people. Especially when there's no countering explanation in the media. Frustrating.

I *love* the "Pinocchio Tax."

Posted by: Skepticat on April 1, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I'm sure the WaPo will run an explanation-in-lieu-of-correction on about the same schedule they did with Will's climate change screw up.

I think what we really need is a cap-and-trade program for Senators. The biggest source of useless pollution in this country is from Republicans talking.

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 1, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

The WaPo just went though a major reconstruction of its print paper. Instead of screwing with the comics, I think they should have gotten rid of the op-eds. They could save themselves one whole page of mostly written dreck and self-serving crap without negatively impacting peoples newspaper reading experience. I would much rather read Pooch Cafe which was relegated online only than every editorial writer.

Posted by: ET on April 1, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Judge Dredd said what??

Posted by: scott on April 1, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

the Washington Post, which ran Gregg's blatant falsehood, should do the responsible thing here.


Oh my. The Washington Post. Do the responsible thing.

How you talk.

Posted by: Laugh of the Decade! on April 1, 2009 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Doing my math that is still almost 200% of the cost now. When people are having a hard enough time putting food on the table. It is nothing for the have's of Washington to make laws that hurt the have nots the regular guy.
Keep this in mind everytime Washington does something to keep the cost down it goes up. This has been proven time and time again. The best thing for the US would be term limits on all public office.

Posted by: Wbones876 on April 2, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't anyone here remember what presidential candidate Obama said about electrical rates back last year 2008? He said

" Under my cap & trade system electrical rates would unnecesarily skyrocket"!

Sounded like a hint to what we are hearing about right now. Maybe this guy making the claim didn't want to be a part of the Obama administration because he new these crazy things were going to come about and didn't want to be a part of it!!! Maybe it is a bunch of lies, but If no one stands up in protest or brings these issues to our attention, who is to say that they might or might not happen? Can any one of you here guarantee me that my electrical rates are not going to go up by $3,100.00 in the near future? Who knows what kind of deals are being made right now to keep this thing from what it sounds like! Politics is all about perception and power, very little good actually comes from the government. I was told many years ago by a man who said that the definition of politics is : MANY BLOODSUCKERS! Government in general has sucked the life out of this country!

Posted by: Alf on April 2, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK



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