By Arthur Alpert
This morning (Friday, Aug. 8) I was enjoying the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial on making food stamp recipients shape up (subtext, it’s entirely their fault) until they used one Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation as an expert witness.
That’s when my amusement at the Ebenezer Scrooge performance gave way to – I don’t know – bemusement, sadness, disgust. Again, the editors thumbed the paper’s nose at journalistic decency.
In the immediate aftermath of Heritage’s most recent embarrassment, how could they?
Since the Journal hasn’t recounted that episode, I will. Heritage, a right-wing lobby in think tank clothing, was caught fudging numbers to fit one of its oligarchic political /economic positions.
Here’s the story, based on a July 31 Columbia Journalism Review analysis.
CJR reported the Kansas City Star won’t run any more essays from Stephen Moore, Heritage’s top economist. Here’s why:
The Star ran a Paul Krugman column naming Moore as one of the “charlatans and cranks” who have influenced policymakers at all levels to enact low-tax, supply-side economic policies—with ruinous effects.
Like Governor Brownback’s faltering Kansas.
Moore’s people called and the Star agreed to run his rebuttal.
Moore, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, submitted a column he’d published in Investor’s Business Daily contending that Kansas’s tax-cut experiment needed more time to work, and citing statistics to show that states “following Krugman’s (and President Barack Obama’s) economic strategy are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states.”
The Star ran Moore’s column on July 7. Weeks later a Star columnist realized one key paragraph—the one containing the most specific data in support of Moore’s claim—didn’t check out.
Moore had written:
“No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years; California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. Oops.”
Oops, indeed. His numbers were wrong. Specifically, he used incorrect Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. Secondly, he paid minimal attention to other factors like how housing costs shape population and job growth.
In fact, Texas didn’t gain 1 million jobs in the 2007-2012 period Moore measured. The correct figure was half that. Florida did not add hundreds of thousands of jobs but lost 461,500. And high income tax New York didn’t lose jobs. It gained 75,900.
Moore admitted he’d gotten the numbers wrong, but defended his conclusions.
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