More on the gas tax

Posted May 4th, 2008 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Funk from the Swamp

Given the talent that mainstream journalists always seem to have for finding “experts” on both sides of an issue even when there is a solid of a consensus as one can ever expect to get from science, and from anyone who has done an honest review of the evidence (e.g., on human induced climate change), I was shocked to learn that, at least on the NewsHour, they weren’t able find a single expert to argue for a gas tax holiday. Gregory Mankiw cites an e-mail from Len Burman:

Yesterday I was on the NewsHour to talk about the gas tax holiday. I asked if there was another guest and the producer said, “We tried, but we couldn’t find anyone to argue the other side (that the gas tax holiday made sense).”

Mankiw is the economist who founded the Pigou Club, which advocates raising the gas tax. In light of the current uproar, the manifesto is worth revisiting.

McCain’s proposal is as predictable as Republican proposals to solve the crisis by opening ANWR to drilling, but, has Hillary Clinton really joined the assault on reason?  Did she really ask members of Congress whether they are “with her or against her” on her gas tax proposal? Pressed on this by George Stephanopoulos this morning, did she really just dismiss the arguments against her proposal as “elite opinion” as she sidestepped the question? TPM Election Central has the direct quotes:

“I think we’ve been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion behind policies that haven’t worked well for hard working Americans,” she said.

A bit later she added: “It’s really odd to me that arguing to give relief to a vast majority of Americans creates this incredible pushback…Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that don’t benefit” the vast majority of the American people.

An ordinary voter begged to differ, however. Stephanopoulos turned the mike over to a woman who said she supported Obama and said she makes less than $25,000 a year.

“I do feel pandered to when you talk about suspending the gas tax,” the woman said, adding: “Call me crazy but I actually listen to economists because I think they know what they’ve studied.”

I don’t always listen to economists either – I grew up arguing environment vs economics with my economist father, at the family dinner table, Italian style. But that was a long time ago, and sometimes, on some things, they are actually right. Since then, I even studied a bit of it myself….

Meanwhile, Obama on Meet the Press, speaking from experience, confirmed that suspending the gas tax won’t actually lower prices. Which is what happened in Illinois after he supported doing this at the state level. Hopefully, some enterprising journalist will ask both McCain and Clinton to explain how their gas tax proposals are consistent with their positions on addressing climate change, or whether they will shelve those at the first sign of a deepening energy crisis.  I have generally refrained from taking sides since we need both of them not just to win in November, but to get anything done. But Hillary is really starting to sound desperate and is digging herself into a big hole with this one. Its sad.

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