The “gas tax holiday” and objective journalism

It’s a bogus idea. Why not report it that way?

Now that John McCain has decided to double down on the gas tax holiday idea, what are the odds that some reporter will report the objective fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed the same idea during the primaries but couldn’t find a single expert to back her up on it? Note that’s “objective” as political reporter define it, since it has to do with what some campaign said or didn’t say. And the view that the proposal was bogus was reported pretty much as fact when Hillary Clinton was pushing the gas tax holiday.

It would be more ambitious to hope for reporting of objective facts about economics:

1. The tax is collected from refiners, not consumers.

2. With refinery capacity tight, oil companies don’t have to pass the savings along to consumers, and mostly won’t.

3. If they did, the amounts of money involved are trivial: surely less than a dollar a day, even fo a multi-car family.

4. If the savings were passed along by refines, consumers would burn more gasoline, thus enriching foreign oil producers and reversing the air-pollution, traffic-congestion, global-warming, and transit-promotion benefits of higher prices.

5. If the forgone revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund are made up from the general fund (which McCain has not proposed) the “holiday” further increases the federal deficit and debt.

6. If the loss is not made up from general revenue, there’s less money around to fix all those bridges,

The AP story mentions points 3 and 6, but only as assertions by the Obama campaign. I call that a rotten start, though not worse than average for AP of late. Maybe Ron Fournier just likes being lied to by Republicans, and has decided to make that part of the AP stylebook.

Update Young whippersnapper Matt Yglesias accuses me of being “confused” on this issue, and somewhat older whippersnapper Jonathan Zasloff says I’m confused about something else, though I can’t remember just what it is. I take the word “confused” as a reference to my … uhhhh …. advancing age and the consequent … umm… err … cognitive decline.

Nonsense! I’m as shark … I mean, “sharp” … as I ever was &#8212 sharper than John McCain, at least &#8212 and in any case I can travel a long way down before I meet those two juvenile bozos on the way up.

Quincy Adams,” on the other hand, who’s a century and a half older than I am, is right to correct me on some of the details.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: