Editorial: The end for an unbiased resource

Thursday, March 01, 2018

For more than two decades, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies has been on a mission to mine an increasingly rare commodity: unbiased information. Last week, the center said its mission has reached its end – and not because the facts had dried up.

“We found it increasingly difficult to attract the financial resources necessary to serve our mission,” board chair Eric Herr said. Imagine that. In a world overflowing with left- and right-leaning think-tanks, oligarchs and policy groups, an organization dedicated to nonpartisan research has to shut its doors due to a lack of dollars. After all, who wants to pay for information that isn’t conveniently slanted? Bold lies and cherry-picked figures are all the rage these days, and the fact checkers scrambling to keep pace are on a fool’s errand.

The reports the center created never carried the kind of provocative headlines that make it easy for people to “like” or retweet without ever reading, never mind absorbing, the data. Facts that form the foundation of truth tend to be boring, especially against the gray backdrop of context. So titles such as “Federal Income and Estate Taxes: A New Hampshire Perspective” or “Hospital Prices, Market Structure and Cost Shifting” could seem stilted in the BuzzFeed era. But as former House speaker and NHCPPS board member Donna Sytek said, “reliable, unbiased information and analysis is essential for shaping good public policy.”

The purpose of the center’s work was to give lawmakers of all stripes the information they needed to craft policies in the best interest of the people of New Hampshire, whether on matters of health care, infrastructure, education, budgeting, corrections, etc. The center may not have presented its findings in a flashy way, but it was yeoman’s work in a political environment where lobbyists and billionaires seem to have no problem getting state legislation crafted to their specifications.

Of this we are certain: Even those citizens of New Hampshire who did not know the center existed before today will miss it when it is gone.