Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Outer Limits of Debate

michelebachmannb_10x15 Congress is barely grazing over the energy issues that will doubtless absorb them more as the year goes along, so we thought we wouldn’t be able to declare the outer limits of this debate for quite some time. By “outer limits,” we simply mean the most extreme position imaginable for or against an emerging policy.

We may have found the outer limits on cap-and trade, per Smart Politics:

“I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”

This is Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) (Smart Politics operates from the University of Minnesota).

We’re genuinely surprised that anyone can gin up this level of rhetoric on cap-and-trade – maybe Bachmann just goes to the outer limits on any given topic.


We wandered over to her Web site to see what’s what and found that she is hosting a public hearing on cap-and-trade in St. Cloud on April 9. You can find out about that here.


Bachmann also has a blog and posted a bit more on the subject:

President Obama’s current proposal aims to cut carbon emissions by more than 3 times that of last year’s proposal – 83%. John Feehery, writing in The Hill's Pundits Blog last week, noted that using Director Orszag’s analysis, this would mean that the average family will pay close to $4,000 a year, or $333 a month.

The White House seems to acknowledge that the costs of this tax will impact low-income families hardest and suggests a $500-a-year subsidy. But, that doesn’t even cover two-months cost for the average family. And, it doesn’t take into account the increased costs for everything from groceries to school supplies that a carbon tax will also impose on everyone.

To be honest, this doesn’t really scan. Bachmann is extrapolating, along with Feehery, what the average family would pay at a point of 83 percent carbon reduction without taking account of the replacement technologies – including nuclear energy – that would mitigate costs considerably. And that point is still over a decade away.

Also, calling this a tax isn’t really on the nose:  you can create a tax on carbon emissions directly; it’s actually considered a more liberal, or business-unfriendly, route than cap-and trade. Cap-and-trade creates a market for credits that can benefit energy producers and consumers (while, admittedly, punishing other energy producers and consumers.) Calling it a tax is more political than accurate.

We’re not quite sure of Bachmann’s stance here – it seems populist in nature, but not really fully thought out enough to make it functional. She seems to doubt the science behind climate change, but also favors energy efficiency.

We expect it will become more coherent as the subject becomes more central. Maybe that hearing in St. Cloud will clarify her position a bit more.

Herself. Finding a relaxed picture of Rep. Bachmann proved a bit tough. She’s obviously quite the firebrand. With Al Franken and Jesse Ventura (and Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone), Minnesota has a fascinating political culture.


Anonymous said...

don't count on any coherence coming from Michelle. It's kinda hard to determine if she says stuff like that to make noise or really believes it.

Max Epstein said...

I've read quite a bit of the modeling results on cap/trade, including from Orszag's CBO last year, and $4000/yr/household sounded really high. When I read the blog post I couldn't believe how foolish an extrapolation it was.

Orszag was testifying regarding Cap/Trade proposals floating around Congress at the time. I wish he had given a time frame, but considering that the relevant bills would have reduced emissions 15% by around 2020, I think its a fair assumption that was his time frame.

Obama's cap/trade certainly does not propose cutting carbon emissions 83% by 2020. Even if it did that would be an asinine extrapolation. But to say because a 15% by 2020 cut costs $X/yr that an 83% by 2050 costs 4X/yr is incomprehensibly stupid to me. Again, Orszag's time frame might not have been 2020 exactly,(2022? "ten years?") but it certainly wasn't 15% by 2050 because that would have had no bearing on any of the legislation the Congressmen were interested in.

Robert Synnott said...

This would seem to be par for the course for her; she's generally a bit of a nut. Other hobbies include pushing for 'intelligent design' in schools, and making up nonsense about Iraq. Oh, and of course, an unreasoning fear of homosexuals and gambling.

She's the one who called for an investigation into who in Congress was 'pro-American' and who 'anti-American'. You really should not expect any sort of sense out of her.

Anonymous said...

Seems like she's missing the point - the root cause here is that the carbon emitters are now getting a free ride - the costs associated with their pollution do not appear in the costs of their goods & services. So, we are all paying now for that (sick time, disintegrating paint and infrastructure decay, etc etc). "Good" legislation would end that, while costing us individually no more than we're paying now (and even less, if the legislation is really good).

David Walters said...

She hasn't a clue...about much. She's an embarrassment to even the most conservative of Republicans in Congress. I've seen here on c-span and you-tube. It's like a skit from SNL.