In his September 24, 2009 column in the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman stated that, in the year 2020, the Waxman-Markey greenhouse gas legislation would cost the average family $160 per year, or as he put it, “roughly the cost of a postage stamp per day.” Golly. Save the planet, the polar bears, and all of God’s other little furry creatures for just pennies per day. Who, except for climate change-denying loons, could be against that?
At best, Krugman’s argument is disingenuous. At worst, it is dishonest. First, he uses a well-known advertising device under which one justifies a costly item by breaking down the cost into lots of small time periods. Under this sort of logic, you can go buy that new BMW for less than the price of a cup of coffee … every hour. Such “pennies per day” nonsense is better suited to late night television advertisements than to an economics column. Costs are costs. Slicing and dicing them into Ginzu knife-sized bits does not change the total cost.
Second, the $160 per year figure is simply wrong. According to the March 12, 2009 testimony
of Congressional Budget Office Senior Advisor Terry Dinan,