“First they came for the facts, and I said nothing”

June 21, 2016 - 2 minutes read

Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, wrote about attacks to funding for the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Washington Post.

The proposed $148 million cut would inhibit the agency’s ability to modernize its methods of “reaching people, collecting and processing data, and managing field operations.” It not only could also result in the elimination of the American Community Survey – a critical source of state and local economic and demographic data – and/or the 2017 Economic Census, but also could actually cost taxpayers money in the long run, as reverting to the agency’s “outdated census design” from 2010 could carry a $5 billion price tag as Census would have to abandon money-saving technologies, such as online-response options, before they can be tested.

He goes on to describe funding attacks as subtle efforts that undermine the ways in which we measure and understand populations, economies, and more:

…What you don’t often see is something even more nefarious: the quiet, systematic attempt to defund our statistical agencies, including the Census Bureau and the BLS. While such efforts are cast as fiscal necessities, that’s pretty ridiculous given the relatively small amounts involved. The whole budget for the BLS was less than two hundredths of 1 percent of federal spending last year.

What’s really going on here is not just a disregard for facts, but an effort to undermine them at their data-collection source.

You can read more analysis from Jared Bernstein at his blog, On the Economy.