Chuck Grassley Here To Unskew The Economy
Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, put on his sad grampa face Friday to let the Congressional Research Service know he's very disappointed in their May report finding the 2017 Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads hadn't produced a huge economic boom. In a letter to CRS Director Mary Mazanec, Grassley complained the report had to have been unfair since it didn't conclude that supply-side fairies are real. How can those crazy economists even claim to be nonpartisan if they come to conclusions Republicans don't like, huh?
In the letter, Grassley groused,
I have received comments from others who believe that the CRS observations are not entirely nonpartisan in tone or objective [...]
If CRS wishes to produce original research analysis that takes a position and tone that is favorable to one side of a debate, without balancing it with alternative objective views, then CRS ought not to present its analysis as objective, nonpartisan, and authoritative.
Not fair! The report came up with "original research analysis" that Grassley didn't care for, and therefore the whole organization is rotten.
At ShareBlue, Oliver Willis notes that when CRS reports produce information he likes, Grassley is happy to talk the reports up. But this time, the analysis found that instead of providing economic "rocket fuel" as Republicans had promised, the tax cuts didn't stimulate the economy so much as just annoy it. Instead of producing instant prosperity and wage increases, the windfall from corporate tax cuts and repatriation of offshore wealth mostly went into stock buybacks -- which increased shareholder wealth, but didn't do much for average workers.
Still, Grassley's staff did their best to find evidence of malfeasance, producing a sniffy little summary insisting that CRS had overlooked some EXCELLENT economic data on productivity, employment, and wage growth. Those rosy numbers are slightly undermined by the staff report's own admission that the tax cuts can't be "definitively" shown to be "the single causal factor in generating all or most of the impressively strong economy of 2018," but the Grassley staffers insist that's fine, since the CRS report claimed to be "objective," too:
Nonetheless, the observations above can be used, in the spirit of the CRS observational approach to objectively claim that they are consistent with or indicative of what might be expected from a tax reform as significant as the TCJA [Tax Cuts And Jobs Act -- Dok Z].
Grassley's staffers also gripe that, for one measure -- the amount of assets corporations plowed into stock buybacks -- the CRS relied on numbers from
"[o]ne organization that tracks these bonuses…," which happens also to be an organization that is a "progressive" special-interest group dedicated to raising taxes.
So were the data, from Americans for Tax Fairness, incorrect or faulty? The staffers couldn't actually point to any factual problems with the numbers, so instead they went for very concerned handwaving.
Our examination of the data, using the source specified in the CRS paper, shows spreadsheets filled with broken "source" links, along with inclusion of "corporate cheapskates spreadsheets." Presumably, CRS has verified the data for accuracy from ATF data, though we are not confident that is true.
Sure, ATF should have working links. But that doesn't mean they fudged anything.
Amusingly, Grassley's staff report then goes on to complain that the CRS didn't consider other assessments of the tax cuts' effects -- with a link to a blog post from the right-leaning Tax Foundation, which opposes tax increases and lurves tax cuts. Not sure how closely the staffers read that piece. It criticizes the CRS analysis on a couple of conclusions, to be sure, and we won't get into the weeds on that. But this supposedly devastating conservative critique of the CRS report insists,
many of the conclusions are not that different than those already reached by other organizations, including the Tax Foundation. The TCJA was expected to be a large tax cut with modest effects on the economy, especially in the first year.
And how's this for conclusive evidence that something's rotten in the Congressional Research Service? In its penultimate paragraph, the staffers fret,
We could go on to describe framing of data and theory by CRS that has a distinct tone and seeming objective of support for claims that the TCJA had little (if any) positive economic effect and refutation of select claims to the contrary.
Framing! Tone! O, the scandal! Why should anyone believe this stuff, anyway, if it won't tell Americans to clap if they believe in supply-side fairies?
Grassley says in his letter that he wants CRS director Mazanec to "meet with my professional staff to discuss these issues," presumably so he can have some reason to call for the research service's budget to be slashed, since it's clearly full of pot-smoking Keynesians.
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