Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
Like most partisan studies, it is a mix of academic language and political diatribe.
On Tuesday, the right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute released a study stating that cutting tax rates while closing sales tax exemptions would boost the state's economy.
The State Journal subsequently published a lengthy article on the study. It is very good, and Matthew DeFour is a damn fine journalist. He offered comments about the study from Governor Scott Walker, a spokesperson for Mary Burke, Wisconsin Taxpayer's Alliance president Todd Berry, and Jon Peacock from the liberal Wisconsin Budget Project.
What isn't included in the article? A link to the actual study.
I eventually found one, though. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article includes such a link in its third paragraph.
For well over a century, daily newspapers were our greatest conveyors of information. They were charged with the important task of distilling the day's news to readers. This also meant that they acted as gatekeepers of information, controlling its flow.
In our present day, though, much more information can be shared via the Internet. We are no longer limited by inches of broadsheet or tabloid. That old school print distillation is still important for general readers, but primary sources should be available whenever possible for readers who want to learn more. Provide a direct link in the online report, spell out that URL for the print edition.
The State Journal's approach to linking primary sources is inconsistent. One article about K-12 funding levels includes a link to a study on the subject, while another piece about a study of child care center funding levels does not.
The WPRI report (PDF) itself makes for a fascinating read. Like most partisan studies, it is a mix of academic language and political diatribe.
Look at this weasel word fest from page 14:
That argument is often overshadowed by factions that will … always reflexively argue either that taxes must be cut so that individuals can keep more of their hard-earned money or they must unceasingly raised, used for government services and redistributed.
"Unceasingly raised," "redistributed" -- there are G.I. Joe episodes that give a more evenhanded view to Cobra's point of view than WPRI gives to the liberal position here. The cover shows fists (labeled as taxes) punching a wallet, imagery more befitting of a hacky political cartoon than a serious policy proposal.
A reporter who provides the primary source to the public offers them the opportunity to analyze its contents in a way the daily news cycle doesn’t allow. For example, my read of the report allowed me to look at what WPRI chose to exclude.
Some of the models cut property taxes by reducing the Wisconsin's technical college levy. WPRI even mentions that will cut employment at our tech colleges. But if we have less instructors at schools like Madison College, where are workers going to learn the skills for the jobs WPRI forecasts as a result of the cuts?
The report lists economic gains of "broadening" the state's tax base by eliminating sales tax exemptions. But those gains are not detailed by income level. That's probably because it would indicate this model increases taxes on the poor while cutting them for higher income brackets. The richer will get richer than the poor will get poorer so, on paper, it is a net economic gain.
That's what I got out of reading WPRI's report and, as I've stated in the past, I'm not even that good at economics. Conservatives will find things they like in the report. Economists can take a deeper dive into the model. Busy readers can ignore the link.
News organizations have the ability to enrich a backbone of solid reporting and contribute to the flow of information -- all it takes is a couple links to primary sources.