A few months ago the buzz was that the Heritage Foundation wasgetting serious after a series of blatant errors and ludicrously biased “research”. The supposed evidence for this turn was the hiring of Stephen Moore from the Wall Street Journal to become chief economist. I was, shall we say, unimpressed.
On July 7, Moore published an op-ed in The Kansas City Star attacking economic policies favored by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. The op-ed claimed that “places such as New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California … are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states.” Moore went on to attack liberals for “cherry-picking a few events” in their arguments against major tax cuts, when in fact it was Moore who cited bad data to support his claims.On July 24, The Kansas City Star published a correction to Moore’s op-ed, specifically stating that the author had “misstated job growth rates for four states and the time period covered.”
What gets me here is the sheer laziness; it looks as if Moore pulled numbers from an old piece of his, and never bothered to update. How hard is it to check state job numbers?
Actually, if you’re going to do something about state job growth, the very least you should do is bear in mind that the recession and recovery have had differential effects across states, so that you might want to look at job growth over the whole period of recession and recovery. If you do, the figure shows what you see for Moore’s four states:
Texas is, not surprisingly, the best performer. New York comes in second, followed by California, with Florida in last place. Not much of a clear ideological message there.
Nor should you expect there to be. Real empirical work on state growth shows multiple factors — mildness of climate, cheap housing, high wages, and yes, some impact from tax rates. The idea that you would find an overwhelming one-factor correlation with taxes alone is something only a, well, Heritage foundation analyst could believe.
Last point: there are quite a few politically conservative but technically competent economists out there, and Heritage clearly has the resources to hire them if it chooses. But it doesn’t — I suspect because it’s afraid that they might stray off the reservation. Competence has a well-known liberal bias.