Credible Non-Partisanship Is the Only Kind of Non-Partisanship
According to the New York Times, Republicans objected to an economic report published by the Congressional Research Service that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth. The GOP complained that the study relied on an oversimplistic methodology. The CRS eventually withdrew its report (A spokesperson with the Republicans described the communication as 'a good discussion. We have a good, constructive relationship with them. Then it was pulled.'). Causality might be assumed, but it's not proved. If Republican raised good questions, the CRS could have decided, on its own, that there really were major flaws and the report needed a second look.
Is this a Republican war on analysis? Would I ask a rhetorical question if it were?
Mr. Hungerford [the author of the report], a specialist in public finance who earned his economics doctorate from the University of Michigan, has contributed at least $5,000 this election cycle to a combination of Mr. Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
That paragraph is buried at the bottom of the item. It's a doozy: Hungerford has donated to each of the major campaign committees of the Democratic Party. Not only is that bad for the credibility of Hungerford and his report, but he's not exactly the small-dollar donor so frequently touted by party heads.
Now, individuals can and should donate to their causes, and doing so doesn't make them incapable of doing good work. (Though as Patrick Brennan and George Gilder argue, it wasn't particularly good work.) It's just weird to see the Times downplaying the donations when good journalists are aware of how appearances mean a lot when credibility is on the line. The Times's Public Editor very recently addressed the value of credibility in a post defending Nate Silver:
[H]ere is the problem: Mr. Silver’s offering a wager could be interpreted, by critics who already paint him as partisan, as evidence that he has a rooting interest in a particular outcome. Yes, even though the winnings would go to charity and even though he was betting to make a point about his model. There may not be a true conflict of interest, but there is an appearance of one. And appearance matters — it affects credibility, which is at the heart of good journalism. (There is a school of thought that rejects this idea and many people articulated that well on Friday.)
Emphasis mine. If making a wager makes someone seem as though they have a rooting interest in a particular outcome, then donating to a cause most certainly proves it, doesn't it? It's like James Taranto says in his Best of the Web column: Two papers in one!
The credibility of the CRS very much hinges on its non-partisanship, and the fact that someone inside the service is leaking gripes about Republicans presents a challenge. That animus is probably the very reason the CRS decided to withdraw the report, realizing that there wasn't a strong enough defense or clarification of its methodology.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial on the issue is smart, especially for its inclusion of two important facts that undermine the Times's own report: The first is that the Times insinuates (without a source) that a member of Congress requested the CRS study in the first place, but the CRS's spokesperson says that's not so. The second is that the Times makes it sounds like Republican objections led to the report getting pulled -- the CRS spokesperson denies that too.
So, what was this? Probably just some score-settling from within CRS because someone didn't like having his work challenged.