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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stephen Moore (Heritage, of course) can't even get his cherry-picked data right UPDATED

If you have had the stomach to read the malarkey that the Heritage Foundation puts out, you have no doubt noticed that many of their publications are, well, fact-challenged. Just looking back at this blog, there are stories on how Heritage wants us to think poverty is swell, and multiple versions of how Heritage did not pioneer the ideas underlying the Affordable Care Act.

Today, I turn from Obamacare godfather Stuart Butler to the new Heritage chief economist, Stephen Moore. In a great diary at Daily Kos, SantaFeMarie sums up the sordid story of Moore's July 7 column in the Kansas City Star where, trying to defend himself and Arthur Laffer from the well-deserved ire of Paul Krugman, he claims that 0/low-tax states have seen better job growth than high-tax states. In the original article, he wrote:
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.
I hope you're sitting down. Although this article was written in July 2014 (and the original version, in Investors Business Daily, appeared July 2), the "last five years" Moore is referring to are: December 2007, the first month of the recession, to December 2012. As you no doubt know, employment data is released monthly, with state-by-state numbers available at a one-month lag from the national numbers. So April or May 2014 was available to Moore when he wrote. But he didn't use that 16 or 17 months' worth of data.

Misleading point #1: This choice of dates excludes California's excellent economic performance subsequent to its 2012 tax and minimum wage increases, as Paul Krugman analyzed in his most recent column. As Star editorial writer Yael T. Abouhalkah (who has long covered everything from fiscal policy to tax increment financing) points out, since Moore's ending date of December 2012, California has added 541,000 jobs, while Texas has an additional 523,400. "So, high taxes are good?" he quipped.

Misleading points #2 through #4: Within Moore's chosen "last five years," he still managed to misstate job performance by over 1.2 million jobs. #2: Texas did not gain "1 million jobs," but only 497,400 (off by 502,600). #3: Florida did not gain "hundreds of thousands of jobs," but lost 461,500, just 30,000 less than the much large California economy (off by at least 661,000). #4: And New York did not lose jobs at all, but added 75,900 (off by 75,900, being generous).


On July 24, the Star published a corrected version of Moore's article which, according to Abouhalkah, Moore signed off on. Moore does not acknowledge that the corrections destroy his argument. On Friday afternoon, July 25, I sent a contact form to the editors at Investors Business Daily asking if we could expect a similar correction there. I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: It's now the evening of July 31, and I have received no response from Investors Business Daily. Nor has Columbia Journalism Review, which reports that the Star's editorial page editor does not plan on using anything from Stephen Moore again (though this could be moot, as she is retiring). And you can see here that there has been no correction made to Moore's original article, which still includes the stats which are 1.2 million jobs off.

Read more here:


  1. Thanks for posting this.

  2. From 2012 to 2013 (latest available from St Louis Fed.)
    TX GDP +3.66%
    CA GDP +2.03%

    Last twelve months, total nonfarm payroll (
    TX +3.4%
    CA +2.3%

    From 2011 to 2012, CA GDP rose 2.70%. How is California's "economic performance subsequent to its 2012 tax and minimum wage increases" at all "excellent" if it does not even exceed the economic performance of the prior year?

    (BTW, California did not increase it's minimum wage in 2012. The minimum wage just went up this month (July 2014). The last increase was January 1st, 2008: )

    1. Thanks for the correction on the effective date of California's minimum wage increase.

      You may not like the term "excellent," but California is now gaining jobs at significantly higher rate than the national average, whereas from December 2007 through December 2012 it lost just shy of 500,000 jobs. The U.S. as a whole grew more slowly in 2013 than in 2012. Texas' growth rate fell from 6.91% in 2012 to 3.66% in 2013, whereas California's drop of 0.7 percentage points almost exactly mirrors the national average.

  3. Over at Econospeak, I tossed in a couple of things. One was to compare Kansas itself over the past 7 years to Moore's favorite four as well as to toss in New Jersey. After all - Chris Christie calls himself a supply-sider and he ran on some alleged job miracle during his reelection. Only problem is that New Jersey is still 3.3% below its employment situation 7 years ago. I also noted that New York - which Moore wants to call a socialist state or something like that - has "Start Up New York", which I guess is one of those "strategic tax cuts" Moore mentioned. So Moore can't even get straight who is doing the strategic tax cuts!