Sunday, May 13, 2012

Congress Tries to Blind the Public

In a nutshell, the Congressional Appropriations bill would henceforth eliminate the Economic Census (EC), axe the American Community Survey (ACS), and reduce funding for the decennial population census. The first of these is the very basis for understanding the economy at the industrial level; the EC is also a major contributor to our Gross Domestic Product estimates. Economic censuses take place every five years, in years ending in 2 and 7. Between those years the U.S. Bureau of the Census conducts less comprehensive annual surveys, thus giving business, economists, and analysts the “eyes” by which to track economic activity at a meaningful level of resolution. Eliminating the EC blinds us. The annual surveys crucially depend on the five-year full surveys.

The ACS is the statistical lens focused on economic behavior at the local level. It measures demographics, income, insurance coverage, educational level, veterans status, disabilities, employment, place of work, getting to work, where people live, and what essential services cost. The ACS has a 1-year, 3-year, and a 5-year cycle, with the 5 year surveys having the most comprehensive coverage down to the Census Tract level. ACS data are extensively used by business and by the educational sector (which uses data published every year for school districts). It is, of course, of vital importance for counties, cities, incorporated place, and towns in administering themselves. Without the ACS, a richly detailed map of the United States goes grey.

I provide next a brief YouTube presentation by Dr. Robert Graves, head of the Bureau of the Census:

Congress has already succeeded in killing the Statistical Abstract. As reported here (link), it went west last October 1. With the additional execution of the EC and the ACS, Congress is also, de facto, killing off the entire profession of micro-economics. And weakening the population census—and thus of the annual estimates and projections of population that take place in the years between those ending in 0, we shall jump, in a single leap, from being the world’s leading provider of statistical information to the status of some third world country where most of the labor is absorbed by herding or farming.

It isn’t done yet, of course. The beady-eyes in Congress, drunk on tea, may not succeed in this attempt to blind us. In fact I hope the public will wrestle the ice-pick out of the maddened hands of Congress pronto.

I would add here this link to a post on the old LaMarotte titled “Telescope of the Economy” which shows why we really need good statistics broadly available to the public.

Hat tip to Joyce P. Simkin who un-made my Sunday.

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