Sadly, the Propagandist Can’t Be Ignored

Look, Pat Crowley of the National Education Association Rhode Island is a paid union hack. One knows what his conclusions will be simply by looking at his job title. He allows no illusion that he will say anything other than what he thinks will benefit his employer, whether true or not. If read at all, his public writings should be studied as examples of propaganda.
Consider his latest missive, which (I suppose) the Providence Journal had no choice but to publish. Crowley attacks people whom he says are making a “Flight of the Earls” argument — that rich people are leaving Rhode Island — notably Ed Achorn and (although he can’t bring himself to say so) me. The first disingenuous aspect of his argument is that the people to whom he points aren’t actually saying what he suggests. Anybody who reads Anchor Rising knows that I’ve been referring to the “productive class” (upwardly mobile working and middle class families) as those leaving the state, and Ed Achorn has been making similar arguments, at least in the several years since I first posted my related research (see here, here, and here).
Unfortunately, respectable journalists continue to take Crowley as a serious participant in intellectual discussion, which leads them to some pretty egregious and misleading errors. WPRI blogger Ted Nesi, for example, writes in response to Crowley’s op-ed:

Projo columnist Ed Achorn says wealthy Rhode Islanders are leaving the state in significant numbers because of high taxes. NEARI official and Rhode Island’s Future contributor Pat Crowley says that’s dead wrong.

Follow Nesi’s link to what Achorn says, and one finds this:

The flight of the middle class is an ominous trend. It puts downward pressure on housing prices, eating away at a key source of most families’ wealth. It drains our state of precious human capital, as educated people who could contribute greatly to charity, civic culture and the tax base head elsewhere for opportunity. It costs jobs, as businesses shut down or move.

Even in Crowley’s fever swamp, the middle class isn’t “the wealthy.” Media professionals risk their credibility when they allow a union mouthpiece to summarize the arguments of his opposition.
But one needn’t read Achorn’s article to have reason to suspect that Crowley is up to tricks. For one thing, Census data showing total population at 10-year increments for the past half-century have only tangential relevance to the question of whether a particular demographic group is leaving the state. Decade-long windows also don’t allow much opportunity to align trends with actual policies. Since the last time the Census came to town, for its year 2000 count, Rhode Island has enacted and done away with phase outs of capital gains taxes and an alternative flat tax. One must look at year-to-year data for such a purpose.
When Crowley does look at year-to-year data, he has no choice but to become anachronistic:

In 2005, there were 11,913 people with incomes over $200,000 a year. By 2008, the number climbed to 12,515. Taxpayers in the $100,000 to $200,000 range grew from 41,817 to 51,904 in the same period. This was the very same period of time The Journal was editorializing that these high-income taxpayers were fleeing the state, and calling for action to keep them here. Action was taken, and we are paying for it with budget deficits.

Actually, no. To the extent that people were arguing that “high-income taxpayers were fleeing the state,” it was prior to these years. The capital gains tax phase out was enacted in 2002, and the alternative flat tax made it through the legislature in 2006. Rhode Island’s annual budget deficits far precede “the very same period of time,” and during the years 2002-2007, the amount of state income taxes that “the rich” have paid has increased in a steep upward slope.
In other words, the increase in wealthy taxpayers that Crowley cites corresponded with the very policies that were supposed to have that effect. Now, in response to the lies and political activity of Crowley’s crowd, those policies have disappeared and, not-so-ironically, leftists and unionists are promoting the effects of the policies as evidence that they were not needed.
The sad thing is that Crowley’s essay is clearly a political strategy. Later this week, the Ocean State Policy Research Institute will be briefing legislators on a report addressing taxpayer migration, going fully public with the report next week. In the meantime, on Monday, I’ll be posting my updated research. As Nesi illustrates when he blatantly mischaracterize’s Achorn’s argument and places it in balanced opposition to Crowley’s propaganda — as if the two sides should be considered equally credible — the tendency will be to see our statements in terms that Crowley has set.
Anybody observing with an unjaundiced eye can begin to see why Rhode Island is in its current predicament.

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Sean Gately
Sean Gately
10 years ago

I read pat’s screed while laughing on how far he can stretch the his lies. The census data says that population in the US grew by 9.7%. If RI were a competitive state that means we should have gained 97,000 citizens. Instead of the paltry. 4500 or so. Instead we com in dead last for states that GAINED population. This number means that around 92,000 people decided NOT to come to RI. These 92,000 that did not come would be those that are productive middle and upper class TAXPAYERS.

OldTimeLefty
OldTimeLefty
10 years ago

Two can play this game:
Look, Justin Katz of Anchor Rising is an opinionated hack. One knows what his conclusions will be simply by looking at his job title. He allows no illusion that he will say anything other than what he thinks will benefit his political preconceptions, whether true or not. If read at all, his public writings should be studied as examples of propaganda.
OldTimeLefty

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“Instead we com in dead last for states that GAINED population.”
Keep in mind that no states lost population. So again, RI was dead last in this measure.
“One knows what his conclusions will be simply by looking at his job title.”
Carpenter? I know that he’ll measure twice and cut once?
As the left will normally do, the merits of the discussion are skipped and he goes right to the name calling. Productive.
Has OTL ever offered anything productive on this blog? I like discussion by the left when they have points to make, but I can’t really remember OTL ever making any. It seems he just comes in, whines, calls names and then leaves again. It kinda takes away from the value of the blog.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

I wonder how much of a “myth” it is that people evade taxes by buying their expensive jewelry and Rolex watches in NH tax free or illegally establish “residence” in a low tax state.
Know one thing I have NEVER seen in Florida?
A RI license plate.
Think about it.

Don Botts
Don Botts
10 years ago

Patrick, I believe Michigan had negative population growth.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

My dog provides more stimulating conversation that Pat Crowley. Just as I know what my dog will do when I open the cupboard for his biscuits, I know exactly what Crowley will do when certain subjects are broached.
They trained him well at the NEA. He’s a good little dog.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“I wonder how much of a “myth” it is that people evade taxes by buying their expensive jewelry and Rolex watches in NH tax free or illegally establish “residence” in a low tax state.”
Or maybe if a wealthy US Senator owned a multi-million dollar boat and moored it in RI because there are no taxes on boats, unlike say…Massachusetts?
Something like that?
Nope, there’s no correlation between people’s actions and tax laws. Nope, none at all.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“Patrick, I believe Michigan had negative population growth.”
Don, that is correct. I thought I remember seeing an article that said no state lost population, but then I found this in a Michigan newspaper:
“The U.S. Census Bureau’s recent release of data collected for 2010 shows Michigan was the only state to have a decline in population.”
So RI is actually 49th on the “I wanna move there” scale.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

The only way Crowley can sound reasonable is to appear on the same program with Alan Grayson.
Pat channels the labor union movement of the Thirties,but I’m not sure he really understands it or the times it happened in,if for no other reason than his age.
I’m about thirty years older than Pat,and my parents grew up in the Twenties and Thirties,both having been born in 1913,and they always I couldn’t understand the Great Depression unless I’d been there.So Pat is even more at a chronological remove.
Like Jerzyk saying he walked around campus listening to MLK’s speeches on a cassette recorder.He wasn’t there for it all and has no clue as to what it felt like to live then.
We can only TRULY experience what goes on in our own times-we can LEARN what went on before,but we can’t create a real memory of it.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Our right trusty and entirely beloved cousins (the Earls) may be leaving but what of the Dukes and Marquesses?

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“As I walk through the world,
Nothing can stop the Duke of Earl”
lyrics from the Duke of Earl
This is a petty gripe about a foe who got some media attention. Bring out all your little graphs and charts and have at it, whatever the it is. I’ll be listening to the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

They they go again.
“Uh oh, I agree with Justin this time. Distract! Distract! Distract!”

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

I don’t have the time, but it it would be nice to see what the average birth rate for 2000-2010 was, then calculate how many people actually did leave.
Also, we should compare Pat Crowley’s ‘increases of wealthy people’ with the national average.
We should look at average ages and incomes. I have a feeling that Rhode Island is making big investments in children, only to have them leave the state when they find out that there’s nothing for them to do here. If Rhode Island is ‘graying’ at an accelerated pace, and young folks can’t generate the incomes required to support the social safety net for their parents, we’re in a bad place.
Out of the dozen or so people I used to hang out with in high school (educated middle class folks), only three are still in Rhode Island.

Max Diesel
Max Diesel
10 years ago

Sorry I don’t have the exact numbers but according to the census, the birth rate minus the death rate was still greater than the .46% population increase. So where did those people go?

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

I haven’t read Pat’s op ed yet, but I had to respond to this ridiculous assertion…
*** quote ***
Crowley attacks people whom he says are making a “Flight of the Earls” argument — that rich people are leaving Rhode Island — notably Ed Achorn… The first disingenuous aspect of his argument is that the people to whom he points aren’t actually saying what he suggests.
*** end quote ***
Yes, since the emergence of the Tea Party Achorn seems suddenly concerned with the middleclass. But anyone with a search engine can find many, many examples of his “flight of earls” hysteria:
Edward Achorn: “Economics 101 and a pack of cigarettes”, 9/22/09 (unable to provide the link due to the annoying spam filter)
*** quote ***
Some in the General Assembly and the social-services industry still scream about the need to “tax the rich” more in Rhode Island. That might be a fine idea if the rich would just sit still and take it. But, as relatively free agents, they have a tendency to pick up and leave when things get too bad.
Tax the rich too much, and you get fewer rich paying taxes — and you need those people, since they pay the lion’s share of society’s costs and invest in the businesses that create jobs.
*** end quote ***
That’s flight of the earls in a nutshell.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

“If RI were a competitive state that means we should have gained 97,000 citizens.”
That’s ridiculous, Sean. RI is the 2nd most densely populated state. An alternative (mis)reading of statistics would say we must be the 2nd best place to live since we have such density.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“I have a feeling that Rhode Island is making big investments in children, only to have them leave the state when they find out that there’s nothing for them to do here.”
I would count as one of the people you mention, except that I went to public school in RI for only one year and, after getting straight A’s on literally 5-10 minutes of homework and being surrounded by fights in the cafeteria each day, quickly realized that I needed to switch to private school. So I wasn’t all that much of an investment for the state. When I finished my higher education in MA, I returned to RI looking for a job and found very few private job opportunities and political corruption rampant (I was solicited for campaign contributions to get a job in the AG’s office). There are exactly 2 medium-large law firms in RI that hired a total of 0 people the year I graduated. So I left. My parents work in MA since they couldn’t find skilled work in RI, and they will be retiring next year. All of my skilled or highly educated friends have left RI as well – when I went home to visit this year there was absolutely nobody left except the dropouts and losers from high school, one of whom I learned is now a single unemployed parent (never married) with 3 kids and presumably living off of state assistance, which I understand is very generous in RI.
You’d have to be nuts to stay in RI if you actually have talent or produce anything of value. The state has been set up over the past century to corrupt such people or suck them dry.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

To more directly address the article, any journalist who takes Pat Crowley seriously is not to be taken seriously themselves. A simple google search of the man is all any journalist should need to keep him out of their reporting. If you aren’t groaning the moment you hear his name mentioned, there is something very wrong with you. If he were a member of any group with which I am even somewhat associated, I would be mortified and try to ostracize him out of the group immediately.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

Again I realize you guys are the glass is half empty types, but the business press paints a more realistic picture…
PBN, “Providence as a cybercity, No. 13 for high-tech job growth”, 12/8/2010
*** quote ***
Nevertheless [referring to job losses during the recession], Providence was highlighted in the report as one of the “medium cybercities” that managed to contain its job losses. When ranked among similar-sized cities, Providence ranked No. 5 for high-tech job growth nationwide. Huntsville, Ala., was the only medium city to add jobs in 2009 at No. 1; also reporting minimal losses were: Columbus, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; and Salt Lake City.
*** end quote ***
In a state our size, comparisons to metro-areas makes a lot more sense than state by state comparisons (and we rank fairly well in many respects).

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

I’d like to take Pat’s logic back to him…
How would he feel about a state law that caps raises at 0.4% over a ten year period? That’s the rate of population growth he’s feeling all vindicated over.
After all, it’s still a raise, right?

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Dan has to imagine himself a Duke or a Marquess and not a lowly Earl. If his Shangri-La is so perfect why the big interest in little Rhode Island?

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

One thing progressives forget is that while the population hasn’t declined anyone whose lived here for decades knows full well that productive, intelligent people are moving out while illegal aliens and other parasites move in.
Which is why while population isn’t down, revenue IS.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

The facts just don’t support it (and, yes, the post above is the kind of thing that looks to me to be routed in bias)…
According to the 2010 Kauffman State New Economy Index Rhode Island ranked 8th nationally in the “Migration of U.S. Knowledge Workers.” RI ranks well in that category year after year, despite how much some here seem to wish it were not so.

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