THE GAS TAX HOLIDAY….Contrary to my semi-prediction of a few days ago, the media has made a big deal out of the gas tax issue. But not because they’ve suddenly gotten religion about reporting on policy differences and highlighting political panders. I think Ezra gets the reason about right:
The problem with the press’s relatively good behavior on the gas tax is that it was a one-off produced by a fairly rare set of circumstances: Namely, a 1) high profile fight between two leading national candidates who were 2) on the same side of the partisan divide and were 3) squabbling over a policy issue where there was utter unanimity among experts….If credentialed experts disagree, however, the media will still refuse to render a judgment. And when it becomes Democrat vs. Republican, all sorts of “experts” who have been given credentials (a sinecure at AEI) specifically in order to support Republican candidates will pop up and loudly proclaim support for health savings accounts or surges or sun blotting and the media will slowly back off in confusion.
I’m not as enthusiastic as some people are about criticizing the media for refusing to render judgments on complex issues, but it’s true that they generally do a pretty lousy job of distinguishing experts from “experts.” In this case, though, even the “experts” agreed that the gas tax holiday was a bad idea, so everyone breathed a sigh of relief and just reported the truth.