Dean Baker is an economist who co-directs a left-wing group in Washington called the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Liberal groups in North Carolina and elsewhere often cite Baker as an authority on the effects of public policy on economic growth.
That practice may be unwise, at least if one were to judge by Baker’s fumbling attempt to rebut my recent Wall Street Journal piece on North Carolina’s experience with unemployment-insurance reform. He does not seem to know his way around the relevant kitchen, or how to follow basic recipes for producing sound policy analysis.
For starters, the policy in question was a set of changes the North Carolina legislature made to the amounts and duration of UI benefits. These changes, including an end to the state’s eligibility for federal extended benefits, took effect on July 1, 2013. Evaluating the impact of the changes would require that one compare trends before that date with trends after that date. In my writings for the Journal and CJ, that’s what I did.
Baker didn’t. He started his analysis with the June data, not the July data. That makes a difference because North Carolina experienced no net job growth in June 2013 even as the nation as a whole added 200,000 jobs. Whatever the cause of North Carolina’s poor showing that month, it obviously could not have been a UI policy implemented the following month.
His poor choices didn’t stop there. Rather than compare North Carolina’s job-creation trend to the national average, as I did, Baker limited his analysis to the nine jurisdictions (including D.C.) that make up the Census Bureau’s South Atlantic Region. I certainly don’t mind making regional comparisons, too, but why ignore the national comparison?
Oh, I think we know why. It wouldn’t further the liberal narrative.