Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 2, 2009

THE EVOLUTION OF A LIE.... John Reilly, the M.I.T. scientist whose cap-and-trade analysis has generated the #1 Republican talking point on the issue, is no doubt frustrated. GOP lawmakers have twisted his work beyond all recognition, and try as he might, Reilly, the source of the Republican lie, can't stop the lie from spreading.

Brian Beutler wrote up this helpful timeline:

* April, 2007: Reilly and several coauthors release a paper titled "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," which estimates early annual revenues from such legislation would run $366 billion

* Sometime between April, 2007 and March, 2009: House Republicans get a hold of his paper, divide $366 billion by the number of households in America, and conclude, erroneously, that the quotient ($3,128) will be the average cost per home.

* March, 2009: Republicans begin using this number in press releases, citing Reilly's study

* Shortly thereafter: The Obama administration gets in touch with Dr. Reilly and asks him to explain his study and the number -- he corrects the record.

* A week or so ago: Independently, a woman who says she's with the House Republicans calls Reilly -- aware of the number, she invites him to come testify against cap and trade legislation. Reilly informs her that her number is probably wrong, and that he supports cap and trade legislation.

At that point, the story should end. But it just keeps going.

Of course, the method Republicans used to get the $3,128 was itself absurd. Brad Plumer noted that the GOP's arithmetic "brushes off the fact that most carbon revenue would be rebated back to consumers, and that certain conservation measures could help reduce energy bills. But the actual MIT study implies that the welfare cost would be around $31 per person in 2015, rising to an average of $85 per person per year -- not including the benefits of cleaner air and a habitable planet."

But what's especially frustrating isn't just the bogus claim or the ridiculous policy analysis, it's that John Reilly told Republicans that they were wrong, and they kept lying anyway.

They relied on Reilly's scholarship, but when Reilly implored the GOP to tell the truth, they couldn't be bothered. As a result they've lied in press releases, they've lied in op-eds, and they've lied, over and over again, in speeches.

Saying something that's not true is a policy problem. Repeating the false claim after having been told it's not true is a character problem.

Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

And CNN just did it again. Pathetic.

Posted by: Creature on April 2, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Lying and getting away with it? Not a problem.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on April 2, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but your'e going to have to sue these people for monetary damages and legal fees before they stop.

Imploring with these people is a non-starter. You have to HURT THEM financially.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 2, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Churchill said it something like this - a lie can travel half way round the world before the truth can put its pants on!

I believe the Republican party is using the above observation as best they can to regain their lost power. Too bad for them we've already dressed ourselves, pants and all, since we had to take so much deceit and deception from the previous administration.

Until these Republican "leaders" realize their deception and obfuscation on the issues will not be allowed in the rest of the 21st century, their fools' status will not change anytime soon! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 2, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

So a guy who SUPPORTS cap and trade says it will cost $3,128 per person?

Posted by: Fake Al on April 2, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm underinformed, but what does cap-and-trade have to do with households anyway?

Republicans make it sound like every household in America will pay $3,128 if cap-and-trade goes through.

But as I understand it (and again, maybe I don't), it is individual carbon-emitting *companies* that will bid on carbon allowances. Sure, those companies are going to pass some of that on to the consumer, but even then, "consumer" means both households and other businesses.

The way Republicans phrase it, they make it sound like every household is going to get a bill for over $3,000. Maybe they're just capitolizing on ignorance, but do they really expect people to buy that?

Posted by: K Ashford on April 2, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, those companies are going to pass some of that on to the consumer, but even then, "consumer" means both households and other businesses.

Right -- but then someone *gets the money*. It doesn't just disappear, the money goes to the government. Then the government cuts your income taxes.

The point of the system is to be revenue-neutral. So the price of some things goes up, but taxes go down.

Posted by: Dave Munger on April 2, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

When Reilly was asked to testify, his answer should have been, "Of course, when?" Much easier to sit there on C-Span and correct the record and explain his study to their faces than over the phone to a Republican staffer.

Posted by: Th on April 2, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

So a guy who SUPPORTS cap and trade says it will cost $3,128 per person?

No, he does not.

(Free clue -- cap and trade revenues could be used to fund reduction of other taxes, so as to be revenue neutral. Cap and trade is really a method for generating tax cuts -- do you like it better now?)

Posted by: dr2chase on April 2, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

House Republicans calls Reilly -- aware of the number, she invites him to come testify against cap and trade legislation. Reilly informs her that her number is probably wrong, and that he supports cap and trade legislation.

There's the problem. He should have agreed to testify and turned himself into a hostile witness;>

Posted by: martin on April 2, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans think energy prices will rise dramatically, in part because they simply cannot imagine anyone coming up with a more efficient way to create non-toxic energy. And this completes the exposure of their thinking. They have no faith in government OR the individual. They only believe in accounting tricks and Luntzian spin.

Posted by: Danp on April 2, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

K Ashford said: Maybe they're just capitalizing on ignorance, but do they really expect people to buy that?

No doubt about it -- they are. And yes, of course they expect people to buy it. They know that most people are too intellectually lazy and/or dumb to care about or follow an argument like this. Consider any issue, from The Meaning of Life to Tomorrow's Weather -- most people nowadays (left or right) want their answers short, straight and non-nuanced. Preferably something that will fit on a bumper sticker. It's 'drill, baby, drill' in spades.

Posted by: JB on April 2, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

For this issue and a host of others, I think Obama should have regular, prime-time press conferences (such as the one he held a couple of weeks ago), that are used to repeat Republican assertions and debunk them with fact.

We cannot expect the media to do their job, so the bully pulpit is the only outlet with which to reach people.

Posted by: terraformer on April 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Danp wrote: "Republicans think energy prices will rise dramatically, in part because they simply cannot imagine anyone coming up with a more efficient way to create non-toxic energy."

I think you are mistaken.

First of all, the Republicans are only saying what the fossil fuel corporations are telling them to say. It's not the result of any "thinking" process about energy prices. It's the result of obediently reading from a script they've been given.

And the fossil fuel corporations are well aware that if the USA moves to rapidly phase out the use of their products and move to an energy economy based on harvesting clean, abundant, ubiquitous, endless, FREE wind and solar energy, the result will be a massive transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel corporations (over $40 billion per year in profit for ExxonMobil alone) to other sectors of the economy -- to the companies that pioneer the new energy technologies of the 21st century.

The fossil fuel corporations are well aware that there are plenty of proven, viable, successful ways to "create non-toxic energy". They know very well that wind and solar are the fastest-growing sources of new energy generation in the world, growing at record-breaking double-digit rates every year. They fully understand the threat to their profits that this competition represents. And they are prepared to fight to the death with denial and deceit to stall the inevitable transition to clean renewable energy sources for as long as possible.

It's not about protecting the public from rising energy prices. It's about protecting the trillions of dollars in profit that a small number of huge corporations expect to reap from a few more decades of business-as-usual consumption of their products.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 2, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Re: this blog post, and "context matters" and "GOP smear machine," below: the Republicans are living by the same two principles that the Bush administration did: 1) the ends justify the means, and 2)one of the means justified is to ignore, distort, and if necessary, invent, facts.

Posted by: karen on April 2, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, making a false statement - knowing it to be false - is pretty much the definition of libel, providing the repetition is damaging. Mr. Reilly could very likely make out a pretty good case that it is, since it makes the people quoting it look like idiots. This presupposes the research on which they rely is terribly flawed or maliciously stupid. There's not much call for M.I.T professors who can't do basic mathematics.

Ergo, continuing to repeat the lie and citing Reilly's research is damaging to Reilly. Libel. Roll it around on your tongue. Like the sound of it? I hope Reilly does.

Posted by: Mark on April 2, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think you are mistaken. - SecularAnimist

That's fair. In a Macchiavellian world, it doesn't much matter whether they believe what they say, as long as it works. But even if you're right, I find it ironic that they would word their argument in such a way that denies the probability of free market solutions.

Posted by: Danp on April 2, 2009 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

...it's that John Reilly told Republicans that they were wrong, and they kept lying anyway.

They're not 'lying', they're spreading a higher, revolutionary truth, a new kind of truth that both comprehends, and replaces, the old polar notions of 'truth' and 'falsehood.

Statements that promote the interests of the Party, and support the Party in its leading role, as vanguard of the Revolution, possess this higher, revolutionary Truth.

The old, bourgeois notion of 'truth' as comporting with external reality has been discredited, and tossed into the dustbin of history.

If you were a correctly oriented cadre, you'd know this.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 2, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm struck by the extraordinary resemblance to the Iraqi TV reporter(I think it was Baghdad Bob but don't quote me on this) who kept claiming over and over that Iraq's troops we're kicking American ass right up to the point where they were entering Baghdad.

Posted by: Gandalf on April 2, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK
But what's especially frustrating isn't just the bogus claim or the ridiculous policy analysis, it's that John Reilly told Republicans that they were wrong, and they kept lying anyway.

Is anyone surprised?

Posted by: (((Billy))) The Atheist on April 2, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

As a totalitarian movement, Movement Conservative Republicanism justifies any tactic necessary to seize power. It is funded and based on protecting some very rich families who believe that their wealth is a God given right, and who believe that the mass of people are either tools to be used or sheep to be sheared or simply disposable.

They go on and on about worrying about burdening our "children" with future (Government) debt (translated they worry about higher taxes on them), could not care a wit about the legacy of degraded environment and ever more impoverished world. They prefer to imitate the elite of Greenland, Maya, and Easter Island, to use up the resources to the very limits for their own vainglory in the belief (ultimately false) that the resulting deprivation will not affect them. (Obviously I have been influenced by Jared Diamond's "Collapse.")

Posted by: Rickstersherpa on April 2, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I find it ironic that they would word their argument in such a way that denies the probability of free market solutions.

I agree its ironic. But is it really any bit of a surprise that republican positions and rhetoric aren't even self-consistent, much less fact-based?

Posted by: DH Walker on April 2, 2009 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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