The president’s surrogates are fanning out in the press to defend his budget proposals. To my eye, they’re not doing a very good job defending the cap-and-trade system that was laid out in the budget.

Right now, the intellectual leader of the Republican Party, Newt Gingrich, is out bashing the cap-and-trade system as an “energy tax” on everyone who uses electricity or gasoline. This is entirely predictable — it has been and will be the central attack on carbon pricing.

On The Week, Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag was pressed relentlessly by host George Stephanopoulos (the very essence of a Conservative Conventional Wisdom Delivery System [CCWDS]) to admit that the cap-and-trade system is a tax. Orszag kind of rambles around and concludes by saying yeah, it will raise energy costs, but overall, American families will come out ahead under Obama’s budget. Which is fine, as far as it goes, though it ends up sound somewhat evasive and doesn’t constitute a defense of the program at all.

For one thing, Orszag might try using the words “climate change.” More specifically, in the budget Obama specifically tied carbon revenues to a payroll tax that would offset the rise in energy costs for the bottom 60 percent of American income earners. What was the point of doing that if not to have a specific and pointed rejoinder to douchebags like Gingrich? It’s not just the overall budget that would benefit most American families, it’s the carbon cap-and-trade system itself. (See also Jefferson Morley.)

Similarly, here’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on Face the Nation (the energy bit comes about seven minutes in):

Here’s the transcript:

SCHIEFFER: … But Newt Gingrich and some of the other Republicans say when people find out that when you’re talking about these things you’re talking about on the energy front, it’s going to be a new tax on everybody that uses electricity, who drives a car, and there’s going to be tax increases in myriad other ways.

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, let’s be very clear. Because I’ve seen these scare tactic before. You’ve seen it too, Bob. 95 percent of Americans, working Americans, will have a tax cut. As the president said Tuesday night, 95 percent of Americans will have a tax cut. And starting April 1st, they’ll see it, which the Republicans voted against in large measure in the House and in the Senate.

Second, nobody will see a tax increase for two years, when we get out of this recession. And he ran on, as you noted, the fact that the wealthy 2 percent will have their marginal rates go back to where they were under Bill Clinton, when we produced 22 million jobs, and their deductions will go back to where they were under Ronald Reagan. We’re going really just back to that point, that starting point.

So there will be these scare tactics of trying to talk about the fact that everybody is going to see increases. And the president couldn’t have been clearer Tuesday night that working, middle-class families will get a tax cut.

In addition to that, more and more will get assistance so they can go to college in a society and a time economically where you earn what you learn, we’re going to help more people go to college and have the most educated workforce.

We’re also fundamentally — the most important thing economically is getting an energy policy and a health care policy that ensures that the economy and members of our society and our country can get a health care system that works for them, rather than them working for that health care system, and an energy policy that weans us off dependence on foreign oil and towards an independent policy on energy.

This is, again, nonresponsive. There’s a specific answer to the question about energy costs. Why not offer it?