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Swinging at straw men

Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014

* From Transylvania University

It’s called hitting the ground running. “When I graduated in May, I never expected to be in national media by November,” said Transylvania University economics and international affairs grad Lyman Stone ‘13.

It’s been that kind of year for Stone, now working as an economist at the Center for State Tax Policy, an arm of the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., as he pursues a master’s degree in international trade and investment policy at George Washington University.

A photo posted next to the story has Stone smiling…

* So, why is a profile of a recent out-of-state undergrad relevant here?

Stay with me.

From a January 15th press release

Illinois state Reps. David McSweeney, Ron Sandack, Ed Sullivan, Darlene Senger, Tom Morrison, Patti Bellock and Jeanne Ives, and State Sen. Michael Connelly will join other legislators on Wednesday at a press conference to express their concerns with the proposed progressive income tax in Illinois. A new report from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation has found that proposed changes would negatively impact the state’s ranking on the State Business Tax Climate Index. Illinois would be demoted from the 31st best climate in the country to 44thoverall, and its individual income tax rank would drop from 11th place to 33rd if it adopted the proposed progressive tax plan. The study also notes that the progressive income tax would affect many Illinois small businesses that pay taxes through individual income tax code.

The Tax Foundation’s Joseph Henchman, vice president of state & legal projects, and Lyman Stone, economist, will lead the press conference with a discussion of their findings. [Emphasis added.’

Um, the guy just got a Bachelors degree last year and he’s touted as an economist?

I thought you needed a “piled high and deep” for that designation.

* Americans for Prosperity rushed to point out the new study by the “economist”

Recently, Lyman Stone, economist with the non-partisan Tax Foundation and Joseph Henchman, the organization’s Vice President of State Operations joined with Illinois lawmakers for a downtown Chicago press conference. There, the Tax Foundation unveiled the sobering findings of a recent study which shows the potential impact of the proposed progressive income tax.

* And the Illinois Policy Institute pounced immediately

The Tax Foundation released an analysis of the proposal to dump Illinois’ fair, flat tax in favor of a progressive tax that would force people to pay higher taxes as their income increases. The conclusion was unsurprising: a progressive income tax would deliver a devastating blow to Illinois’ already struggling business climate.

The Tax Foundation ranks states based more than 100 different variables that fit into five broad categories: major business taxes, individual income tax, sales tax, unemployment insurance and property tax. The index ranks the general competitiveness of state tax systems – with 1st being the most competitive and 50th being the least competitive state tax system. A state with a ranking of No. 1 is considered the most competitive economically.

* To the study

Illinois’ State Business Tax Climate Index score could fall to 44th, from 31st currently, if the proposed progressive income taxes are passed, which indicates a tax climate less supportive of economic growth […]

With the 2011 tax increases scheduled to sunset in part, and with the state budget still not structurally balanced, some policymakers may consider doubling down on bad tax policy. One proposal that has emerged in recent months is to consider a graduated, or progressive, income tax that would impose many additional rates on individual income.

For example, (HJRCA0033) would amend the state constitution to allow a progressive income tax.6 The plan includes seven tax brackets and a top rate of 9 percent, raising taxes on all income over $18,000.

* The citation the economist author uses is a link to the proposal itself. The full and complete actual language

There may be one tax on the income of individuals and corporations. This may be a fair tax where lower rates apply to lower income levels and higher rates apply to higher income levels. No government other than the State may impose a tax on or measured by income.

Yes, some rates have been discussed in the media, but the legislative proposal itself makes no mention of them. So picking essentially random tax rates and plugging them into a tax climate score just doesn’t do it for me.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

24 Comments
  1. - Stones - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    The guy looks like he would be fun to party with!


  2. - Downstater - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    Pass the progressive income tax and bring a smile to face of the executives at United Van Lines.


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    I thought it was a gag with “Transylvania University.”

    Who runs the economics department down in Kentucky, Bela Lugosi?

    The push for a progressive state income tax is what scares the Civvies.

    They never cared about pension debt or corporate income tax. Their companies don’t pay state income taxes, anyway, so they’re not on the hook.

    A progressive personal income tax would sting the likes of Miles White and other multi-national execs.


  4. - Reality Check - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    And the Tax Foundation, like AFP and IPI, is a front for the Koch Brothers.

    I love that their VP’s name is Henchman. Where did he come from, a Scooby-Doo cartoon?


  5. - Weltschmerz - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Over the years I’ve noted the blurring of job titles to the point of their being meaningless. This morning I yelled at a guy to get his dog off of my lawn. I now consider myself a “Community Activist”. Look for me in the background on TV news bytes.


  6. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    When I hear “economist”, I think of a professor in the 50-60 year-old-range. Not a new graduate.

    Regardless, it doesn’t make much difference if the kid is smart. We often fall into the assumption that younger people or new faces don’t know what they’re talking about.

    If the underlying data is solid, it doesn’t matter how old the author of the study is.

    If the underlying data is flawed, then the Tax Foundation should issue a correction or retraction.

    This seems like an enthusiastic and bright kid. These groups should be grooming him, not using him.

    By the way, we’re all still waiting for a correction on the infamous Romer-Bernstein paper projecting concerning America’s unemployment rate, etc., if we passed the “stimulus”.

    Even grizzled economists make gross mistakes.


  7. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    ==Pass the progressive income tax and bring a smile to face of the executives at United Van Lines.==

    Moving where? To one of the eight states that has a flat tax (and only two have flat rates significantly lower than Illinois). The fact is that most states and the Feds use a progressive rate structure.


  8. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    Not exactly your father’s Milton Friedman.


  9. - JDeb - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    I’d be surprised if this guy is the sole author/ researcher on this report. Groups like this usually have a number of folks reviewing. Plus, it’s not like this guy started this Index the Tax Foundation uses.

    Short of using rates in existing legislation or ones put forth by leadership, it seems reasonable that they would score a proposal using rates already put forth publicly by the bill’s longtime sponsor to try and figure out the impact this could have. Suppose they could have used the CTBA rates too.


  10. - Anon. - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    “The Tax Foundation released an analysis of the proposal to dump Illinois’ fair, flat tax . . .”

    This just in: Tax Foundation says Illinois’ tax is fair!


  11. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:06 pm:

    –”The Tax Foundation released an analysis of the proposal to dump Illinois’ fair, flat tax . . .”

    This just in: Tax Foundation says Illinois’ tax is fair!–

    Anon, that’s very funny.

    The whole push-back against a progressive income tax is interesting. In my circle of acquaintances, it’s not even on the radar. But the idea sure has some people spooked.


  12. - captaingeorge - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    @ Wordslinger A progressive tax hurts me. I am not a multimillionaire. I am solidly middle, middle class. I would pay more in taxes too at least for a few more years before I retire. Then I will no longer be solidly middle class whereupon all my views will change so I can suck the state even drier. One does not need to attend or graduate from Transylvania University to understand how to suck blood even from a dying donor.


  13. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    Dude, we’re in the, like, Capitol Fax! Illinois, Man! Awesome!
    Party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth!


  14. - Boone's is Back - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    At least they’re not appointing him as an agency director. Maybe PQ will call him up tomorrow.


  15. - Jorge - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    A lot of these think tank reports are qualitative opinionated arguments not statistically significant quantitative analysis. Hence why I only look at the data think tanks use.


  16. - globalguy - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    And I thought unemployment was a problem for his generation. Also, according to US News & World Report, TU is ranked 76th among National Liberal Arts Colleges and has an 84% acceptance rate.


  17. - shore - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    that picture is awesome. The study aside-and that’s not the kids fault I think it’s great a young kid like that is rocking. good for him. the kid in the red hair however looks like he belongs in a seth rogen movie.


  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    Well, it’s good to know that the Washington Post and Fox Business search for experts on Google just as some of us do. And that the young man is candid enough to admit it.


  19. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    Perhaps we should blow up the picture of this fine upstanding economist and send it to the solons so they can get it autographed by him. They admire his work so much.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that they should be ashamed of themselves.


  20. - Empty Suit - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    “Economist? Heck no man but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express”


  21. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 3:55 pm:

    Think of this next time someone tries to bolster their paranormal claims using people that call themselves “scientists.”


  22. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 4:04 pm:

    You just know Rich is going to use that pic for a Friday blog post.


  23. - walker - Wednesday, Jan 22, 14 @ 4:47 pm:

    Good for this kid to get interested in government and stay involved.

    I just hope he learns some real economic analysis methods at George Washington.

    His conclusions reached by assuming unknown tax rates and using this unproven scorecard, are next to meaningless.

    Ok, he tried. And he pleased his employer.

    ==non-partisan Tax Foundation==

    makes me laugh every time


  24. - low level - Thursday, Jan 23, 14 @ 9:17 am:

    Excellent digging, Rich. Spot on.

    Yep, kid makes it big, and now he’s an expert. Right.

    Pretty telling when they have to rely on kid’s analysis. Says a lot about them.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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