Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are. You well heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are. And when your hand is on your heart, you’re nearly a good laugh – almost a joker. With your head down in the pig bin, saying “keep on digging.” Pig stain on your fat chin…” and on go the lyrics to the classic song from Pink Floyd’s Animals Album.
Just this morning Linda McMahon won her primary fight for the Republican nomination in the race to take over the retiring Joseph Lieberman’s Connecticut Senate Seat. We are a little firm and were honored when Ms. McMahon’s campaign team contacted us to see if we would be able to score her rather detailed tax and economic plan. We rose to that challenge, and our analysis is now presented on her campaign website at (http://www.lindasplan.com/).
Interestingly, after we did this work for the campaign, we were called out in media reports that – while not directly calling us facist/communist alien agitators – did imply that we were somehow a non-independent, non-credible firm. I am always happy when the media or opponents attack me or my firm because that means that they cannot attack my work, but I found it particularly interesting that this job, along with a similar scoring model that we did for Gov. Rick Perry’s aborted presidential campaign, generated so much vitriol.
We take pride in our work, and are particularly careful to ensure that what we produce is based on the best data, assumptions and methods available to us, and it personally bothers me when my firm is attacked for being some sort of front or “hired gun.” In reality, John Dunham and Associates is a business, and while my first objective is always to do the best work that I can for my clients, I am also responsible for ensuring that the people who work for the company can pay their rent and buy food. So yes, we are hired by our clients, the same way that journalists are hired by a paper, or professors are paid by a grant or a university. The bottom line is that almost no research is done without somebody paying for it. But that does not necessarily make the research bad, tainted or impartial.
We make it a point to not work for a few different types of clients since generally we do not believe that we could perform honest and impartial research for them.
First, we generally avoid government contract work. I have found through years of experience that those firms that rely on government for the bulk of their revenues are loath to perform any research or to aggressively stand by any research that might put those government jobs at risk. I understand this and it makes complete business sense for those firms – generally large consulting firms or accountancies. Since governments so grossly overpay for work and since firms have to invest years courting those contracts, it would not make sense to put them at risk in order to satisfy some small client.
We also do not generally work for activists. Again, this makes a lot of sense for us as activists are generally true believers in a cause and are not often interested in really understanding or analyzing an issue. I still remember anti-tobacco industry activist Stanton Glantz who stated that it “didn’t matter if anti-tobacco activists told the truth as long as they accomplished their goals.” We simply cannot work under those conditions, and while we have done work for cause based organizations (see for example http://www.guerrillaeconomics.biz/bestfriends/) we make it very clear that we always go into a project neutral and if our findings do not match the goals of the cause we will not change them.
Finally, we do not work as advisors to political campaigns, as that by its very nature would be partisan. Often big name economists will work for campaigns and that immediately labels them in my mind. I struggle against the dogmas presented by the economics profession all the time, and simply refuse to adopt dogma in my practice. If a Keynesian model works best then great. If something works best using a classical approach than so be it. We need to have that flexibility since we work on so many issues and conduct so much original research. That said, it does not mean that we will not work for a campaign that asks us a specific technical question about a policy that they developed. This is what we did for the McMahon and Perry campaigns. They wanted to know what their proposals would do. We simply provided the numbers.
We believe that this neutral, balanced and client geared approach allows us to produce the best work for our clients while ensuring that it is always based solely on the best data and methods. By not taking sides we can help our clients make the best decisions, and explain the importance of their issues and positions without dogma, without hysteria and with credibility and honesty.