Crowley’s Strategy: Repeat the Lie
I remain reluctant to relinquish the innocence that leads to my being surprised that such people as Pat Crowley exist outside of Charles Dickens novels and the bureaucracies of totalitarian madhouse societies.
Last April, I informed readers of the Providence Journal opinion pages that, “according to tax returns filed in 2005 and 2006 (based on income from 2004 and 2005), Rhode Island lost, on a net basis, 8,296 taxpayers, with an aggregate adjusted gross income totaling $485 million, over those two years (IRS migration data).” The statement derived from some research that I’d posted here in February, and on which I later expanded here and here.
One recent evening, somebody working with the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce emailed me to inquire after my source, which I provided, and subsequently forwarded to me an “E-Brief” conveying the data (PDF). RI Representative David Segal (D., Providence, East Providence) got wind of the release and posted about it on RI Future.
Then Crowley got in the game, teasing a post in which he would get to the bottom of the Chamber’s claim. Wrote Pat: “Needless to say, this has made the policy wonk in me very excited. Why? A number is verifiable. Or at least it should be.” In the comments, Tom Sgouros chipped in to correctly identify the data source (IRS migration) and to concede, at least, that “there’s no doubt that it’s troubling information.”
When Pat finally put the post up, it was incorrect in its core accusation:
In order to make their claim, the Chamber needs to make a leap of faith – that the migrants were only in one direction and that they were all taxpayers. This is pure speculation: for example, with higher education being one of our major industries, a graduating class is going to have a lot of comings and going; and the Chamber only accounts for the goings.
And went on to cite trends in the number of IRS tax filers in Rhode Island. Unable to keep my fingers out of the fishbowl any longer, I explained that “tax years 2005 and 2006 saw migration TO Rhode Island of 43,774, with an aggregate AGI of $2,037,577,000, but migration FROM Rhode Island of 52,070, with an aggregate AGI of $2,522,327,000.” (I also explained why the filer data wasn’t directly applicable.) It was a quick I-should-already-be-in-bed comment, and I pretty much copied and pasted from the Excel file that I built from the IRS data last year. If only for rhetorical reasons, I should have been more explicit that the data is based on counties, not states, so both the inflow and outflow numbers include people who moved within Rhode Island, because Tom Sgouros correctly specified:
For 05-06, the IRS data I have says that 17,395 2006 returns were from people who moved from here to elsewhere, and that 12,968 people moved from elsewhere to here.
I should note, here, that the Chamber of Commerce’s language is insufficiently specific that the data accounts for two years of migration. Adding the second year to Tom’s number, we get the following for net losses of taxpayers and AGIs over the two years:
|Justin’s taxpayers||Tom’s taxpayers|
Unless you’re employed by the National Education Association of Rhode Island, you’ll likely notice that the two totals are exactly the same, because the in-state migrants cancel themselves out. The same is true for AGI.
But rather than admit the obvious and attempt, as Sgouros did, to move the debate onto ground that is actually, well, debatable, Crowley dug in, saying that I’ve been “caught in a lie” and “exposed” and updating the post to accuse the Projo of fraud for a related editorial. Exposed I’ve been: of a desire to review numbers with those who dispute my conclusions and to clarify where we’re looking at different things.
Given his slight change of status when he became the owner of RI Future, I’d been attempting some level of interblog comity, but it’s so clear that Pat is of the do anything/say anything school of propaganda that it’s difficult not to suggest that anybody who aligns themselves with him thereby damages their own credibility.