Gingrich’s Opportunist Love for the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a great organization, dedicated to doing rigorous work on economic and budget policy issues, always with an eye to the impact on the most vulnerable Americans. So when you hear that Newt Gingrich is citing CBPP figures, you might conclude that the man’s developed a sudden interest in helping poor people. But as Brian Beutler observes, what we’re really seeing is Gingrich’s longstanding interest in misleading the public:

But Gingrich’s most misleading citation may have been his last one. “$750 per year for the poorest quintile according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.” That study is here. The section Gingrich is talking about reads: “Our analysis, using an approach developed by the Congressional Budget Office, finds that even a modest 15 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions would cost the poorest fifth of Americans an average of $750 a year per household.”

And that might well be the nail in the coffin of climate change legislation — except two sentences later, the report cautions that “[t]he $750 figure is the cost before any action is taken to mitigate these effects and is a measure of what would happen if low-income households were left on their own to cope with the effects of higher energy prices.”

The point of the CBPP report is, unambiguously, to urge that climate legislation be done in a way that’s sensitive to the interests of the poor and not, as Gingrich would have it, to do climate legislation in a way that’s sensitive to the interests of the pollution industry and leads to ecological catastrophe. And the good news, as Dave Roberts reminds us yet again, is that it’s actually quite easy to make climate legislation serve the interests of the poor. You just need to auction carbon permits, thus generating revenue that can more than offset any problems the carbon cap poses for those of modest means.