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Washington Post Obeys Right Wing Talking Points, Calls Cap And Trade System A ‘Tax’ [UPDATED]

By Brad Johnson on March 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

"Washington Post Obeys Right Wing Talking Points, Calls Cap And Trade System A ‘Tax’ [UPDATED]"

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Lori Montgomery
Lori Montgomery

As discussed in Friday’s Progress Report, the right wing has been pushing the meme that a carbon cap and trade system is identical to an energy tax:

After former House speaker Newt Gingrich told the Conservative Political Action Conference that cap and trade is a “code word” for an “energy tax,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it a “light switch tax” and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said it was a “code for increasing taxes and killing American jobs.”

It now appears that Washington Post reporters have decided to follow the right-wing talking points on cap and trade:

“Republicans are howling about the proposal to expand health coverage and tax greenhouse gas emissions without their input, warning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president.” — Lori Montgomery, “President’s Budget Strategy Under Fire,” 3/18/09

“House Democrats have decided not to use the tactic for another Obama initiative: a proposal to tax greenhouse gas emissions, known as cap and trade.” — Lori Montgomery and Ceci Connolly, “GOP Pressed on Health Care,” 3/20/09

Although it is true that, like a carbon tax, the auction of global warming pollution allowances would be a tremendous revenue generator for the American people, a cap-and-trade system is not a carbon tax, which is why, on April 1, 2007, the Washington Post wrote:

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill push for a cap-and-trade system to rein in the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, an unlikely alternative has emerged from an ideologically diverse group of economists and industry leaders: a carbon tax.

In discussing wireless spectrum auctions, the Post does not call the sale a “tax.” In discussing oil lease sale auctions, the Post does not call the sale a “tax.” When the Treasury auctions T-bills, the Post does not call the sale a “tax.” Furthermore, in previous discussions of cap-and-trade systems, the Post does not call the sale of emissions allowances a “tax.”

In fact, just last week the Post’s Steven Mufson wrote “Opposing sides are striving to either frighten or woo voters with talk of whether climate legislation should be viewed as a big ill-timed tax or whether it will unlock new industries and technologies to make the economy more efficient and less dependent on foreign oil.”

It appears now that the Washington Post has chosen sides. The Wonk Room contacted the Washington Post on Friday about this change in policy but has not received a response.

Update

4:06 PM: Lori Montgomery called the Wonk Room, and explained that it was her decision, and not Post editorial policy, to call the cap and trade system a “proposal to tax greenhouse gas emissions.” Explaining that the budget, not energy and climate politics, is her beat, she told us:

It’s not an ideological decision. In the context of the budget, just about anything that raises revenue is a tax.

The Wonk Room appreciates the courtesy of the response.

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