by David Safier
The question is, why should Mark J. Perry care what a Blog for Arizona writer has to say? Perry is an econ prof at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus, and he writes on the policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the longest standing conservative think tanks in the country. (Yeah, it says it's nonpartisan, but with senior fellows like John Bolton, Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle, there's no question it bends way to the right.) Blog for Arizona is a bunch of dedicated, hyper-intelligent writers scattered around Arizona with no big names, and without $45 million a year in revenue, which is what AEI brought in during its 2013 fiscal year.
Apparently Perry does care. When Bob Lord, a BfA writer, challenged Perry on one of his recent pieces, he went kinda ballistic. First Perry asked Lord to make a minor correction, which Lord did, then he had someone he referred to as a “colleague” send what he called a “devastating critique” in the form of a rambling, invective-laced comment. The "colleague" is a frequent AEI commenter who uses the handle “famous fox.”
Perry published a piece titled, New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share. The headline pretty much says it all. According to Perry, the rich pay more than their fair share of taxes, and it’s those lucky people on the bottom 60% of the income ladder who are getting off too easy tax-wise.
Lord answered with a long, detailed post titled, Anatomy of Deceit: American Enterprise Institute Analysis of CBO Study. Lord argues that Perry cooked the numbers to exaggerate the tax gap between the rich and everyone else, though he admitted the rich pay a lot of taxes. Why? Because they’re rich. And if income inequality keeps growing and the rich amass an even greater share of the country’s wealth, they’ll pay even more, because they’ll be even richer.
Bob Lord, by the way, is a tax lawyer who writes extensively on income inequality, so he’s no stranger to this argument. He's also an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and has written op eds which have appeared in the LA Times, the AZ Republic, USA Today and elsewhere. He’s got the knowledge and the chops to challenge Perry’s numbers and his conclusions.
Lord, who loves a good fight, emailed Perry a link to his post, and Perry responded. Lord details the back-and-forth in his follow-up post, Anatomy of Deceit, Part II: A Cowardly Writer Responds Through a Shill.
"The pettiness of Perry asking for such a small correction shows I nailed him with my analysis," Lord told me. And Perry passing off the job of answering Lord to commenter "famous fox" rather than engaging in the discussion himself? "Perry realized he got into it too deep," Lord said.
I love this story for lots of reasons. Blog for Arizona was my home before I moved to the Weekly, and I stay in regular contact with the feisty gang of writers, so I love it when their posts make an impact and strike a nerve. Citizen journalism is alive and well in Arizona. And it's always a pleasure to see the big guys on the right, many of them bullies by nature, throw a temper tantrum when they're challenged, especially when the challenger is someone who should "know his place."