CNBC Reporter Gives Full-Throated Support for Higher Gas Taxes

On MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" today, Steve Liesman robustly defended raising gasoline taxes as a way to address rising oil prices.

The CNBC senior economics reporter minced no words to show his support for hiking the unpopular consumption tax in the midst of a sluggish economic recovery: "I want to offer that one of the real solutions here is a gas tax."

After positing that the problem with oil prices "is not that they're high, it's how they oscillate," Liesman claimed higher gas taxes "would accomplish two things: one, it would create incentives to use less of it and two, create a little more certainty around the price, which by the way is one of the things making gasoline a bad fuel for the economy."

The problem with oil prices is not that they're high? Ask California residents, who pay the highest gasoline prices in the country – and among the nation's highest state gasoline taxes – if they think high oil prices aren't a problem. Unstable prices certainly don't help, but to imply that excessively high oil prices aren't a problem if they're stable shows a disconnect with the challenges facing most American families.

University of Maryland economics professor Peter Morici disagreed with Liesman and suggested expanding offshore drilling as an alternative.

"I don't believe a higher gas tax will give us certainty, but I do think that developing more domestic supplies will cushion the impact on the economy," explained Morici. "Right now, if we pay more for oil, the money leaves the country. If we were producing more of our own energy, even if the price went up, it would redistribute it inside the country, get reinvested, get used, and so forth."

Morici added that compared to raising gas taxes, the negative impact of expanding offshore drilling "would be far less."

A transcript of the relevant portions of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
The Daily Rundown
March 8, 2011

9:22 a.m. EST

STEVE LIESMAN, CNBC senior economics reporter: Can I not make a few friends here today? I want to offer that one of the real solutions here is a gas tax.

PETE MORICI, economist: You really do want to make enemies.

CHUCK TODD: I've heard this argument but go.

LIESMAN: One of the worst economic parts of what's happening to oil prices is not that they're high, it's how they oscillate. They're high, they're low, they're high, they're low. It is impossible for business to plan. I believe a gas tax would accomplish two things: one, it would create incentives to use less of it and two, create a little more certainty around the price, which by the way is one of the things making gasoline a bad fuel for the economy.

TODD: I want to go with that certainty issue. This certainty issue – we heard this argument yesterday – that really all anybody wants is certainly. Does he got a point here?

MORICI: I don't believe a higher gas tax will give us certainty, but I do think that developing more domestic supplies will cushion the impact on the economy. Right now, if we pay more for oil, the money leaves the country. If we were producing more of our own energy, even if the price went up, it would redistribute it inside the country, get reinvested, get used, and so forth. So the economic impact, and most importantly, the jobs impact would be far less.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.