Journalists are at at their best when they are dissecting the political conventional wisdom, not simply parroting it. And this week, journalists are doing a pretty solid job questioning the various forms of conventional wisdom put forth about the federal stimulus package.
For instance, after months of covering Republicans’ “where are the jobs?” taunting without seriously investigating the accusation, this week they are reporting that economists say between 0.8 million and 2.4 million jobs have been created so far, about halfway through the fund. The stimulus seems to have bended the curve, but not snapped it. Minnesota State economist Tom Stinson said Minnesota probably won’t get back to 2007 unemployment figures until 2012, but also noted “Without this (federal stimulus) program, it probably would have taken a couple more years (i.e. until 2014).”
This kind of reporting is considerably more insightful than hearing Boehner and Pelosi hurling endless zingers to and fro. This week’s coverage has actually allowed me to learn something about the gray areas of this issue.
Here’s my question, though. Where is this kind of journalistic probing in Minnesota public affairs reporting?
For instance, in the final year of the Pawlenty era, a year in which our Governor is pledging to do for all of America what he did for L’Étoile du Nord, it would be interesting — important even — to deeply probe the Governor’s contention that he helped Minnesota by lowering taxes.
The Governor makes this claim constantly. But unlike this week’s fairly balanced reporting on the relative effectiveness of the stimulus package, the Pawlenty claim about the wonders of “no new taxes” is almost never examined by Minnesota public affairs journalists.
That’s a darn shame, because it’s an interesting and important question. While the Governor has played cutesy games on the revenue side (e.g. increased fees, labeled tobacco taxes “fees,” shifted revenue burdens to others) it does look pretty clear that overall taxes did decrease during the Pawlenty years.
But, to what effect? Did these lower taxes make Pawlenty era Minnesota into a land of milk and honey, as the Governor implies on the national hustings? Did lower taxes lead Minnesota’s economic growth and jobs picture to outshine other states? Did lower taxes improve Minnesota’s competitiveness vis a vis other states when it comes to major drivers of long-term economic growth, such as education and infrastructure?
Here there is plenty to probe, according data gathered by the liberal interest group Minnesota 2020.
I know, I know, Minnesota 2020 has a liberal bias. Even though they’re aggregating data from other sources, its analysis has to be taken with a grain of salt. But why isn’t this an issue being analyzed by Minnesota journalists?