We talked several weeks ago about the non-partisan Congressional Research Service pulling a report that documented what many already knew: giving tax breaks to the rich helps concentrate wealth at the top, but it does not boost the economy. By all accounts, Republican lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had the report killed.
But the ongoing effort to find out exactly what happened continues.
Democrats still want to know why the Congressional Research Service withdrew a report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth. Their suspicion that it might have been because of Republican political pressure is being piqued by internal correspondence between CRS officials and senior GOP aides.
A series of email exchanges from Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 obtained by Roll Call reveals displeasure among staffers for Senate Finance ranking Republican Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
For weeks, the official Republican line has been that GOP policymakers and even folks outside Capitol Hill raised concerns about the economic report, but did not explicitly call for the analysis to be withdrawn.
Roll Call's report features a series of complaints between Republican Senate aides, including one in which a McConnell aide specifically lamented "partisans" misusing the CRS's conclusions, adding that "a retraction should be considered." Arguably more damaging is an email from a high-ranking CRS employee, who told a colleague at the time, "Now they are asking for the report to come down," in reference to Hatch and McConnell staffers.
This is consistent with what Thomas Hungerford, the CRS researcher who produced the report, told the Huffington Post earlier this month: the analysis was taken down due to "pressure from the Senate minority."
In other words, the GOP denials about the Congressional Research Service are looking a little shaky.
As for the bigger picture, I suspect this seems like inside baseball -- most folks have probably never even heard of the Congressional Research Service -- but I continue to believe it matters.
To reiterate a point from earlier in the month, it's important to understand that the Congressional Research Service, generally recognized as Congress' own think tank, has a well-deserved reputation for non-partisanship. The CRS is counted on to provide lawmakers with the most reliable and accurate information available, and the notion that partisan lawmakers can pressure, censor, and possibly even intimidate independent researchers is simply unacceptable.
In other words, we just can't have public offices' scholarship being stifled because Republicans find reality politically inconvenient. Our system of government isn't supposed to work this way.
Republicans have adopted trickle-down, supply-side economics as the foundation for their entire worldview. The Congressional Research Service used reliable, objective information to report what most mainstream economists widely accepted -- if the goal is boosting economic growth, giving people who are already rich a tax break doesn't do anything except make the gap between rich and poor more dramatic.
But as is the case too often on the right, it's easier to bury reality than deal with it.