25 Jun 2009

The CBO’s Estimate of the Cost of Waxman-Markey…

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…was somewhat misleading, as we explain in this opinionated post at IER. An excerpt:

There are several major flaws with the CBO approach, but perhaps the most outrageous example of sleight of hand is the CBO’s focus on after-tax income. Because Waxman-Markey will raise prices more than incomes, households will necessarily become poorer. This will push households into lower tax brackets—and thus have lower tax liabilities to the tune of roughly $8.7 billion. Normal people would consider this to be a downside of Waxman-Markey. CBO is not normal. It considers this $8.7 billion as an addition to total household income—money from heaven!—and goes about celebrating the effect of this policy without saying a thing about the cause.

Beyond the absurdity of translating rising prices into a benefit for households—on the basis that poorer people pay less in taxes—the CBO’s treatment of income tax revenues is inconsistent with its treatment of carbon allowance auction receipts. The CBO study acknowledges that households will pay higher energy prices partly because businesses will “pass on” the cost of buying emission allowances. But CBO didn’t include this component as a net cost to households, because the government could spend the auction receipts and thus recycle some of the money back into households.

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