Media Coups and Congressional Hearings

Carrots and Sticks attended the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on carbon allocation this morning. One thing that is becoming clear is that the Senate GOP’s main talking points are all based on sweeping generalizations rather then any particular dispute about the facts.

The basic arguments they advanced almost all followed the same formula, ‘my State (or America generally) uses x amount of gas or coal, that’s a lot and so a Cap and Trade would cost my constituents a whole lot of money. Which is interesting because 1) this line of thought is meant challenge the consensus among scholars and experts not employed by the Heritage Institute and other corporate backed think tanks is that Cap and Trade wouldn’t cost a lot money, and 2) they are not referencing Heritage’s studies.

By contrast during the House debates on Waxman-Markey, I heard several Congressman quote and reference Heritage and other Conservative outfits. The strategy can be explained by the role of the media.

The goal is to frame the issue in a convenient way and then ask the experts giving testimony if they’re right and if they get even a grudging agreement it becomes a news story. That’s what happened last week Republicans asked CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf about the costs of Cap and Trade and got him to ‘concede’ he thought there were costs to Cap and Trade. You read all about here is on Heritage Institution’s Blog, or on the Washington Post, or at Farm Futures.

The whole thing is pretty questionable. Elmendorf had already released and discussed the CBO’s analysis of Cap and Trade and he’s said that he thinks costs would be small. The Washington Post write up is a particularly powerful illustration in this regard, the first 2 sentences explain the caveats, but the headline simply says, “Cap-and-Trade Would Slow Economy, CBO Chief Says”.

-Chris

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