Conservatives Ditch CBO Data When Convenient To Attack Climate Bill

Bill Scher

Conservatives who loved citing the Congressional Budget Office when it was being hard on health care legislation keep on ignoring it when it comes to climate legislation.

Today conservatives tried once again to mislead the media into reporting the costs of cap-and-trade are higher than every objective analyst expects. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, with the help of right-wing bloggers, is distorting the information found in newly obtained Treasury Department and Obama transition team memos to claim the White House secretly knows, “Cap-and-trade is a Big Old Tax.”

All those memos showed though is that the original White House proposal would raise revenue from polluters, which would have then been used to provide tax cuts to individuals. This was not secret information, but a stated intention of the proposal. But all that’s neither here nor there because those musty memos don’t even pertain to the specific cap-and-trade plan passed by the House.

Wonk Room, Media Matters and Switchboard all have provided handy debunkings. And Politico’s Ben Smith, after blogging about the original CEI hit, quickly offered a correction.

But what’s striking to me is that the CBO has been widely embraced as the ultimate, unquestionable arbiter of fiscal righteousness by Democrats, Republicans and the media in the health care debate — so much so that legitimate alternative analyses get scant attention.

Yet when it comes to climate, CBO’s pronouncements have barely been heard, giving the right-wing a broader opening to spread its usual misinformation.

Let’s review.

The CBO concluded that the clean energy and climate protection bill which passed the house in June would slightly cut the budget deficit by $9 billion over 10 years, would only add minor costs to the average household of less than a postage stamp per day, and would result in a net benefit to low-income households.

And that low cost estimate is likely too high because CBO said its analysis did not “encompass the potential benefits associated with any changes in the climate that would be avoided as a result of the legislation.”

Now I have criticized the CBO’s health care analyses as biased against new ideas to save money. The CBO displays the same bias here — it’s just that with the climate bill, the benefits for families are so promising that even a low-balled number is still a good number.

My treatment of the CBO is consistent, while conservatives are selectively picking and ignoring CBO data, often with the inadvertent assistance of the traditional media.

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