Heritage has some hot models

No, not that kind. I’m talking about the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, which a group of KRT interns toured yesterday. CDA director Bill Beach gave a very inspiring and impassioned speech about data, and the many helpful models that can be formed using data.

OK, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but honestly, he was engagingly geeky. If there is one thing journalists miss is how to interpret the actual effects of proposed legislation, whether it’s taxation, Social Security or health care benefits. Crunching the data and using sophisticated models which take into account how changing one variable — say, a change in the capital gains rate — affects all the other variables, can be useful in understanding the dynamic effects of legislation.

Of course, all these models must work in some implicit assumptions about what the effects will actually be (e.g., that a tax cut will broaden the tax base thus increasing revenue rather than cutting it), but it’s still pretty cool.