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Friday, December 9, 2011

Who or what are you citing? Where is your data? Where is your evidence?

I have noticed that I often rant at individuals that form arguments devoid of quantitative data, qualitative evidence, or both.  When asked for example, I fail to think of any individuals that perpetrate this type of thinking or situations where this kind of reasoning arises in. Therefore, I have decided to make a post every time I see this topic come up.

The latest example of this stupidity was recently covered by an NPR article titled

"GOP Objects To 'Millionaires Surtax'; Millionaires We Found? Not So Much."

The article can be found here:

The article covers Congressional Republicans' rejection of a surtax on millionaires.  Before I say anything, please realize that I am neither fully against increasing taxes nor decreasing them.  I can't look at situations in such a manner and make ideological, political, or policy blanket statements.  I consider each case individually and try to see if there is legitimate data to back up any particular stance that I decide to take.

The authors of the article went to find ACTUAL small business owners who gross more than a million dollars a year through their business.  They asked the business owners about their views on the potential tax and whether it would affect their hiring decisions.  After reaching out to Congressional and Senate Republican offices to get in touch with such folks, the authors were met with constant failure since all of them failed to produce individuals that could be interviewed, even anonymously.  Finally, NPR resorted to facebook and found several business owners that were willing to comment about such a tax.  Here is a snapshot of their comments:

""It's not in the top 20 things that we think about when we're making a business hire,"

"He says his ultimate marginal tax rate "didn't even make it on the agenda."

"Yankwitt [the business owner] says deciding to bring on another employee is all about return on investment. Will adding another person to the payroll make his company more successful?"

"If my taxes go up, I have slightly less disposable income, yes,"  "But that has nothing to do with what my business does. What my business does is based on the contracts that it wins and the demand for its services."

The republican response to such commentary DIRECTLY from business owners?
"Those I would say were exceptions to the rule," responds Thune. "I think most small-business owners who are out there right now would argue that raising their taxes has the opposite effect that we would want to have in a down economy."

Yes, I am singling out republicans in this case. But, the political ideology of the person making the argument doesn't matter.  It's the strength of your argument that matters.  In this case, Republican politicians are speaking for a constituency from whom they can't even muster up ONE individual, ONE, to honestly speak for them and make the case that this tax increase will stop them from hiring and as a result, stop them from promoting economic growth.  

We learn to form proper arguments while learning to write essays in HIGH SCHOOL.  When you make a statement, you back it up DATA, FACTS, or any other kind of legitimate EVIDENCE.  I am just amazed at how these Republicans can be *SO* adamant about an issue without providing any real evidence to support their views.   For instance, is there historical data showing that when taxes were increased on rich individuals or small business owners, there was a a clear drop in employment?  Is there data from other countries showing a drop in unemployment as soon as a new tax on businesses was initiated?  Is there ANY kind of evidence to support the view that Republicans hold in this situation?  I understand that it's problematic to make causal statements like this since there could be a variety of alternative explanations for sagging employment numbers but in this case, SOME evidence is better than no evidence at all.

As I originally stated, I have NOTHING against someone being against raising taxes. What I DO have a problem with is someone making a claim about the economy-killing side-effects of raising taxes and failing to provide any real data or qualitative evidence to back up their claims.

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