The Corner

Trust but Verify

Over at The New Republic, Jesse Singal points out that a table I posted at the Corner back in December is based on inaccurate data. This table, which I got from the website Zero Hedge,  illustrates how government subsidies and tax credits could create a disincentive to work. While the general principle that work barely pays for some people is sound, Singal is right that the math overstates the case. For instance, a mistake in the data is that total federal tax using the standard deduction, personal exemption, and child credit is $1,960 in income tax plus $4,950 in payroll tax, or $6,550, not $13,034 like shown in the table. 

Because it came from Zero Hedge, a source I generally find useful,  I didn’t give it the scrutiny it might have deserved. Obviously, this is no excuse for the lack of due diligence in reposting the table. Lesson learned.

However, there is positive aspect to this incident. It shows two things about how the Internet has affected discourse, both for the better: It has allowed more voices and information to circulate and allowed corrections to be made more easily and powerfully. On a personal level, it calls to mind something Ronald Reagan, whose centennial is being celebrated this week, was famous for saying in a different context: Trust, but verify.

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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