There’s no such thing as a ‘light-switch tax’

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A ‘LIGHT-SWITCH TAX’…. In an apparent effort to be an even more shameless hack, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) argues in a Washington Post op-ed today that “all American families will get stuck with a new ‘light-switch tax’ on electricity bills that is in the president’s budget.”

It’s not just Gregg. While President Obama cut taxes for the vast majority of Americans, a standard Republican talking point is that Obama is also raising taxes on everyone who uses electricity. The new GOP catch phrase popped up about a week ago, when the House Republican Conference said in a press release that the administration supports “a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year.”

As is too often the case, the difference between Republican rhetoric and reality is overwhelming.

As Brian Beutler explained, “There is, of course, no such tax in the president’s proposal or the budget resolution, and nor could there be. Obama’s proposal contemplates revenue from a cap-and-trade bill, and there is a deficit neutral reserve fund for future climate change legislation in the resolution, but even that section was amended last night to provide that any increased energy costs would be offset by cap-and-trade revenue.”

PolitiFact also scrutinized the Republican claim and described it as a “pants-on-fire” kind of lie.

“It’s just wrong,” said John Reilly, an energy, environmental and agricultural economist at M.I.T. and one of the authors of the report [cited by congressional Republicans]. “It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.” […]

The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices. Moreover, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form.

The report did include an estimate of the net cost to individuals, called the “welfare” cost. It would be $30.89 per person in 2015, or $79 per family if you use the same average household size the Republicans used of 2.56 people.

The cost would grow over time as the program ramps up, but the average annual cost over time in today’s dollars — that is, the “average annual net present value cost” — is still just $85 per person, Reilly said. That would be $215.05 per household.

A far cry from $3,128. And that isn’t the only inaccuracy in the claim.

The Republican claim isn’t just an error or a mistake, and it’s not a subjective question open to interpretation. The GOP talking point is an obvious and transparent lie.

I’m not optimistic, but the Washington Post, which ran Gregg’s blatant falsehood, should do the responsible thing here. It was wrong to publish the lie, but the paper now has the opportunity to publish a correction so readers are at least aware of the fact that the New Hampshire Republican is trying to deceive them.