Thursday, January 24, 2008

You don't say!

How economically illiterate do you have to be to write about economics for The Montreal Gazette? I mean, seriously, is there some sort of test involved and anyone who can correctly chart a supply and demand graph is immediately fired? I ask because today's huge, front-page headline story is about the nefarious scandal that, and I kid you not, companies pass along the cost of higher taxes to consumers via higher prices. Apparently, these evil corporate fat-cats are greedily unwilling to go bankrupt and, perhaps even more chillingly, unable (unwilling?) to print their own money, insisting instead on prying it from our very hands.

Here's the story. The first three paragraphs are worth quoting in full:

"Quebec energy consumers - not just energy producers - are the ones who will end up paying for the province's new green fund. The bills are in the mail.

It wasn't supposed to be this way: When the provincial government imposed the country's first carbon tax last fall, it wanted producers to pay.

But just as oil refiners have already done, Gaz Métro started passing on the cost of the carbon tax this month."

Now, say what you will about a carbon tax, that's not the issue here; my focus is on how economically clueless you would have to be to be surprised that taxes on businesses get passed on to consumers. I mean, we're not talking advanced econometrics here, this is plain-as-day common sense. And yet, the front page story, the huge font, and "It wasn't supposed to be this way." Not to mention the reaction from confused, betrayed voters like Leonard: "They said consumers would not pay for this - and now here we are, paying for it." Incidentally, Leonard, if you're reading this, there's this bridge I've been just itching to get off my hands, call me.

Thank goodness for Pascal D'Astous, who, unlike many of his fellow Quebecers, is apparently not retarded:
"Pascal D'Astous, a spokesperson for Béchard, said yesterday the government never intended to compel companies alone to pay for the green fund.
'How could we ever have such a mechanism?' he asked.
'We're in a market economy. We could never prove whether or not the carbon tax was or was not part of their prices.'"

Oh, Pascal, you cold-hearted bastard, I think I love you.

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