A very large hat-tip goes out to blogger Brendan Nyhan who has noticed that the Tax Foundation has deleted a blog post on their site which was very critical of an editorial graphic published in the Wall Street Journal.
This though is not the only blog post that appears to have been deleted by the Tax Foundation. A follow-up blog post from Friday entitled “Where the Taxable Income Is, Continued” also seems to have disappeared. The follow up blog post still exists online thanks to a tax law aggregator site which copied it and the text of the original blog post can still be read on Nyhan’s site.
Scott Hodge, President of the Tax Foundation, responded to FrumForum’s requests for comment and stated that the original blog post had side-stepped the editorial process:
Like all organizations we have an editorial process. The piece was posted before I could edit it. I thought it needed revision and editing. We never got a satisfactory revision. It’s a moot point now.
The post argued that a chart used in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on how much taxable income existed in different income groups was “a textbook example of how to lie with statistics”. The blog post agreed with the spirit of the op-ed, but argued that it was not necessary to make the argument in a misleading way:
My point here is not to criticize the editorial itself, because it’s true that taxing only the rich isn’t a viable path towards deficit reduction. At the same time, we shouldn’t resort to misleading charts that pretend to show that those with high incomes don’t make the majority of the money in this country— they do.
The follow-up blog post proposed better ways to present the data, but it also referred to the original post as “nonsense for a variety of reasons” and being guilty of “distortion”.
The Tax Foundation’s actions raises questions because to some outside observers, it would appear that the post was deleted not because of the merits of the post, but because it accused the Wall Street Journal of dishonesty. Without further clarification from the Tax Foundation, it is likely that this incident will become another datapoint of a conservative think tank taking questionable action with its data and materials, such as when the Heritage Foundation removed part of its GOP budget analysis from their website after receiving significant criticism for their unemployment projections.
Follow Noah on Twitter: @noahkgreen