September 5, 2010

Barely "Factual"

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's still-new PolitiFact feature, with the market-hook Truth-o-Meter has generally been worth a perusal and sometimes a thorough read, although I've thought the journalists behind it could shoot for bigger targets much of the time. For today's review of a statement by state rep. and congressional candidate John Loughlin (R., Tiverton), though, they seem to have drifted a bit — claiming that a statement on the economic benefits of tax cuts was "barely true." Here's the statement that PolitiFact fact checked:

After Ronald Reagan cut taxes in 1981 the U.S. enjoyed "exponential growth."

Before looking at the substance of the claim, we need to adjust PolitiFact's parameters:

Taken literally, "exponential" refers to growth at an ever-increasing rate, as when something doubles, then triples, then quadruples. The economy during the Reagan years did no such thing.

Actually, it would be more accurate to suggest that the literal meaning of "exponentially" is not so much a reference to continual, unceasing growth, but to growth that is so large that it is best expressed in terms of exponents (x-squared and such). The growth of the economy in 1982 was actually recessionary, but in 1983, according to PolitiFact, it was 4.5%, and in 1984, it was 7.2%. Especially considering that nobody actually means "exponential growth" literally in public discourse, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that such growth fits the bill.

But the more important question is whether the statement is accurate by non-literal standards. PolitiFact offers two arguments in the negative. First, journalist Eugene Emery notes that growth thereafter "returned to a fairly typical 3 percent and 4 percent, which (while healthy) isn't exponential by any standards. Second, he points out that Reagan's 1981 tax cut was followed by tax increases, of various forms, in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. He then asks Loughlin why "he mentioned only Reagan's tax cut and not the subsequent increases."

Perhaps if he hadn't been in a gotcha frame of mind, the journalist would have looked at the prima facie nature of his own question, particularly after he'd heard the following from a professional economist:

We asked Edinaldo Tebaldi, an assistant professor of economics at Bryant University, about the timing. He said it takes one to three years "to fully see the benefits of tax cuts."

In summary, Reagan (in concert, of course, with the rest of the federal government) cut taxes in 1981, and two and three years out, the economy grew. He then allowed taxes to increase, and after the same lag, the growth moderated. By the terms of the Projo's own fact-checking team, the evidence would indeed support the statement that tax cuts offer a very significant boost to the economy.

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I can remember the period, and wonder how much tax cuts had to do with it. I agree they were probably helpful. But, I think the real factor after years of "stagflation", "misery index", President Carter amd a general malaise was Reagan himself. His speeches and bearing restored hope, the "American Dream" was re-vivified. You had the feeling that if Reagan sent helicopters on a rescue mission, they wouldn't all be lost in the desert. (to be fair, I think that mission failed because every branch of the service wanted a piece, and communication broke down completely)

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 5, 2010 6:17 PM

The Projo,scumbags that they are,have been trying to screw Loughlin at the behest of the lying,degenerate,little Cicilline because of a potential deal they have with him for the city to buy their building.Maybe Chris Young will bite Chi-Chi's face off.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 5, 2010 7:59 PM

"Since the birth of the US, in 1776, the foreign debt owed by this country has grown to $9 trillion.70%
Seventy percent of that amount came during the administration of three Republican presidents; Ronald Reagan, Geo. H. Bush and Geo. W. Bush."

It's been downhill since Andy Jackson but it went over the cliff with Ron "deficits don't matter" Reagan

Posted by: Sammy at September 5, 2010 10:56 PM

Whatever the merits of trickle down we know from the last 2 years that trickle-UP sure doesn't work.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at September 6, 2010 4:47 PM

"Whatever the merits of trickle down we know from the last 2 years that trickle-UP sure doesn't work."

Damn. And it had such promise ...

Posted by: Monique at September 6, 2010 8:00 PM

As for cutting taxes, Projo felt it necessary to point out specifically that Reagan did not cut taxes by himself but did so in concert with Congress. However, a few paragraphs later when discussing the subsequent tax increases, it is all Reagan's fault, with Congressional involvement at best implied by the earlier statement but presumably omitted with specific intent to assign blame. Just another example of Projo's inability to restrict their opinions to the editorial page instead of displaying a clear bias within supposedly 'fact based' reporting articles.

Posted by: Jon at September 7, 2010 1:10 PM

Winter weather complicated travel for many Americans on Wednesday -and left six dead in weather-related accidents, not to mention forced one NBA team to take the rare step of postponing a game a result of the conditions. Six people, including two young children, have died in weather-related incidents since Tuesday. A 1-year-old and 2-year-old child were killed in some car accident in Arkansas, an official because of the state's department of emergency said. Tommy Jackson also said a man was killed in his home in Saline County by a falling tree. A 53-year-old man in Rayville, Louisiana, was killed because a tree fell on his house, Richland Parish Sheriff Lee Harrell said.

Posted by: HelgaMcintyre at December 28, 2012 7:03 AM
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