Senate Democrats have liberated a report from the Congressional Research Service which Senate Republicans successfully got the nonpartisan research arm of Congress to retract. The report argued that there is no evidence that tax cuts for high-income earners boosts economic growth, which Republicans didn’t want out in the public sphere.
Here’s what Senate Democrats said on why they decided to release the retracted report:
The analysis, conducted by the Congressional Research Service, compared tax policy with GDP patterns over the last 65 years. The report’s findings undermine a central tenet of Republican party orthodoxy on taxes.
The report was first released in September but was removed from public circulation shortly thereafter, apparently after pressure was applied by Senate Republican leaders.
We are re-posting the report here, in its original form, so that it receives the unfiltered exposure it deserves as a nonpartisan analysis.
The study from Thomas Hungerford is available here.
The New York Times reported on the dispute today. After the release of the CRS analysis in September, Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, complained about not just the findings, but the wording of the report; specifically, they didn’t like the use of the phrases “Bush tax cuts” and “tax cuts for the rich.” McConnell and Republicans also smeared Hungerford as a partisan Democrat, citing his political donations to Democratic campaigns. As Sen. Chuck Schumer, messaging leader of Senate Democrats, says, “This has hues of a banana republic. [Republicans] didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.”
According to the NYT, the Congressional Research Service’s economic division recommended that the report stand, and Hungerford defended the analysis. But CRS took down the report anyway.
The report analyzed data going back to the 1940s to determine whether lower tax rates at the top increase economic growth by increasing investment and productivity. And it finds that average GDP growth was higher in the 1950s, when the top marginal tax rate routinely exceeded 90%, than in the 2000s, when the top rate stood at 35%. “There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth,” Hungerford writes, though he sees a more definitive correlation between reductions in the top tax rates and the rise of massive, concentrated income inequality.
Republicans claim that CRS decided on their own to pull the study after criticisms, which they claim were based on solid economic grounds. But this pressure placed on non-partisan research ties into the war on facts that we’ve seen across the spectrum of data from conservatives. Statistics show a decrease in the unemployment rate, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics must be cooking the books. Nate Silver’s aggregation of polls show President Obama with an edge in the election, so he must be skewing the data. Climate scientists show massive environmental effects from man-made climate change, so they must be lying. And now, the Congressional Research Service is biased.
Jared Bernstein writes:
The study, by economist Tom Hungerford, is of high quality, and is one I’ve cited here at OTE. Its findings are fairly common in the economics literature and the concerns raised by that noted econometrician Mitch McConnell are trumped up and bogus. He and his colleagues don’t like the findings because they strike at the supply-side arguments that they hold so dear [...] Woe betide us as a nation if this stands.
According to Bernstein, the study did account for time lags from policy shifts, a core criticism from Republicans, as well as outside factors that could impact the economy. He described the takedown of the report as unprecedented.
And that’s true. This war on facts, where nobody can agree on a common reality based on rigorously study of data, is debilitating to democracy.
UPDATE: Top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee Sander Levin wants answers from CRS as to why they pulled the report.