With the first spending bill of the year, The House Appropriations Committee's bill for Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations, slashes government's data collection arm by 25 percent. The cuts in question target the Commerce Department's Census Bureau . The U.S. House of Representatives voted (232 - 190) to eliminate all funding for the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the traditional census long form starting with the 2010 Census. These cuts follow the Obama's own proposed cuts to the bureau's budget.
A U.S. Department Of Commerce, Office of Inspector General's report, in June 2011, raised questions re. the cost of conducting the ten-year census mandated by the constitution. However, the Census Bureau has been striving to cut administrative costs, re-engineer their survey processes to bring down its costs while maintaining the quality & accuracy of the statistics gathered.
But for most of the congresspersons who want to gut the Census Bureau, it's not only about costs. "Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) famously declared she would not fill out her 2010 Census form, even though doing so is required by the Constitution and law. Bachmann even raised the specter of the World War II-eraJapanese interment camps to argue against the Census."
And while the Economic Census is the foundation for the country's most important measures of our economy, House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) claims that "This legislation roots out extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary programs while prioritizing some of the most critical aspects of government," One wonders how having accurate & authoritative economic data, esp. in these times, can be seen as unnecessary !
The damage that these apparently ideologically motivated cuts will cause is significant. "The Census Bureau would have to terminate major statistical programs, cease critical data collection and vital benchmark reports on the nation's economy, population and housing, as well as lay off off as many as 700 employees."
As Census Director Robert M. Groves states, The ACS is our country’s only source of small area estimates on social and demographic characteristics." Manufacturers, retail businesses , home builders, local communities all rely on its updated data. "There is no substitute from the private sector for ACS small area estimates."
The cuts would prevent the continuing work on finalizing the results from the 2010 census. Also, not being able to test new methods will probably mean that the 2020 census will not be at a lower cost per household than that of the 2010 Census. If saving taxpayer money is a real motive, the cuts don't really further that objective.
Business interests do not support the proposed drastic cuts. "The Chamber of Commerce, for example, strongly advocates funding them, since its members rely so much on the information they provide on basic things such as household spending, per capita income, and population estimates. " Andrew Reamer, a research professor at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy states that “The loss of the American Community Survey will cause chaos and inefficiency in the operations of business and government in the U.S.,”
As Phillip Swagel, an economist and nonresident scholar at American Enterprise Institute states, “Those agencies are essential,” “The data they provide really tell us what’s going on in the economy. This shouldn’t be a political issue.” Unfortunately, it appears, that is exactly what it has become.