One day after being sworn into office, President Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies “reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency.”
Yet, with the majority party scrambling for votes and a grim November election forecast on the horizon, qualities such as transparency and openness have taken a back seat to political spin.
The administration itself offered the latest example of chicanery in its analysis of the economic effects of its moratorium on deepwater drilling - an analysis that found a loss of ‘only’ 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf.
Though the administration’s dismissive attitude toward its own actions which left thousands of U.S. workers in the unemployment line are disheartening, the most troubling aspect of its report was the numeric sleight of hand the administration performed to minimize the appearance of the damage they had done.
Administration analysts cut their estimates by an unexplained 40 to 60%. Without these unexplained and unexplainable reductions, the estimate of lost jobs in the Gulf leaps to nearly 20,000 for just the 6 months covered by the original drilling ban. That’s just employment fallout. The report also fails to account for GDP, wages, or tax revenues lost.
The combination of misdirection and election pressure has the makings for a perfect policy storm. Congress is attempting to pass anything which can be leveraged for a campaign victory, while analysts are apparently being pressured to remain silent regarding damaging data.
The consequences of this sort of approach are clear. Congress and other stakeholders, deprived of probative, useful data, contemplate poorly designed, potentially destructive policies.
In fact, earlier this month the Senate was only four votes shy of repealing Section 199 for oil and gas companies. Though lawmakers framed this and other proposed new energy taxes as “pay-fors” for stimulus measures, they would have quite the opposite effect.
According to an analysis by LSU finance professor Joseph Mason, the administration’s proposed oil and gas taxes hikes would result in 154,000 lost jobs in 2011. Through 2020, these measures would result in $341 billion in lost output and $68 billion in lost wages.
Though these details don’t find their way into everyone’s talking points, they cannot be edited out of economic reality. The bottom line is polices which undercut our domestic energy companies will translate to higher fuel and heating prices for American consumers and fewer jobs for U.S workers.
Despite 2009 promises, Obama is taking steps to alleviate the pressure on Democrats by whitewashing unfavorable numbers and downplaying what really are significant economic losses.
Misrepresenting the true reality of proposed new taxes and other legislation will have a significant and long-term negative economic effect on the country. The administration unfortunate willingness to play games with the data and analysis upon which we all rely is leaves stakeholders flying blind, and puts the American economy at risk.
Thomas J. Pyle is president and CEO of the American Energy Alliance, a not-for-profit organization that engages in grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and environmental policies.