An Ignoble Attack
A few days ago, a rather innocuous blog post of mine came under withering attack from a blogger at the Kansas City Star. The striking thing about the blog post by Jason Noble, a reporter for the Star, was its personal nature. Not content to disagree with me, ask for clarifications, or challenge my post, he felt the need to call me a liar and described a simple explanatory note as “weasely.” To quote Homer Simpson:
Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals … except the weasel.
Anyway, this gives me the opportunity to explain myself a little further, correct any errors I may have made in the post, and point out Noble’s own faulty logic.
The mistake I made in the post was not being clear in this statement:
This is a tax change that will benefit all businesses in the state (at least all large enough to qualify to pay it) — not just those chosen for special tax treatment.
I was referring to tax credits. Rescinding the franchise tax would benefit every business that paid it, which is far better policy than giving out tax credits to select businesses that perform certain things the government decides it wants to subsidize. In my defense, tax credits have been the dominant topic on this blog for the past year or so, so I thought many of our readers would have easily known what I meant. But I still should have been more clear.
I definitely don’t agree that my parenthetical explanation was “weasely” or otherwise improper. It simply clarified that I knew that any business paying that tax had to be large enough to qualify for it, and my post provided an easy link to an article (from Noble himself, at the Star) explaining that the tax applied to corporations with more than $10 million in assets in Missouri. Providing a link to additional information is perfectly appropriate in blogging.
He then criticized my use of the term “serious movement on taxes,” while admitting he does not know what I meant by the term “serious.” I didn’t mean that it is “statistically serious” or else I would have said “statistically serious” (or “statistically significant”). By “serious” I simply meant to indicate a tax cut that had broad legislative support and bipartisan support, as evidenced by the fact that a Democratic governor signed it. Attacking my choice of an adjective seems strange.
Noble’s logic is wrong in his idea that the franchise tax cut will only benefit 2.8 percent of the corporations in the state. Just because there are 109,876 currently registered corporations in Missouri does not mean that 109,876 corporations are providing goods and services, employing people, and paying taxes in Missouri. To provide one example, Paul McKee had 13 different corporations acquiring property as part of his redevelopment project in the north side of Saint Louis, before they were merged into one entity. Thousands of the “active corporations in good standing” in Missouri are just holding companies, or exist simply on paper. I have no idea how many of the 109,876 corporations actively employ people and do stuff, and neither does Noble.
The 3,042 businesses that will benefit from the tax cut may be “by definition, the largest and wealthiest” businesses in the state. They also employ a large number of Missourians, pay a large amount of taxes (property, sales and use, licenses, utility, income, franchise, etc.), and generate enormous economic activity. If the elimination of the franchise tax will encourage companies large and small (nearly every small business wants to be a large business) to expand and invest in Missouri, we will all benefit. I think the benefits of this tax cut will be “widely felt” by Missourians over time. Noble may disagree and think that corporate plutocrats will keep all the phased-out taxes as higher profits buried under their mansions. I never claimed that I had proof of this — a blog post is not a policy study — but Noble’s claim that they cuts won’t be widely felt is also unknowable.
All of this could have been part of a discussion in our comments section or part of a related debate, although I had no intention of making a big deal out of the original post. Instead of disagreeing with me about an issue or asking for follow-ups, though, he decided to call me a liar and a weasel. That was unnecessary and unbecoming.