Funny title for an article. Numbers, statistics, stats....those boring people with their spreadsheets, graphs, always showing you up at a party in a game of Trivial pursuit.
Facts! Who needs 'em! Uh, we do. A very obscure thing is happening in Washington D.C. All of those dusty agencies with their legions of geeks and geekettes, cranking through numbers and collecting data are under attack.
Here are some of the statistical and science programs cut....so far the BEA has not been cut, but the Census was, by -$6.2 billion. This is before the infamous super Congress was created to cut much more out of the budget.
As a result the Statistical Abstract is about to go bye-bye. People are speaking out trying to save this treasure trove of data. According to this op-ed requesting America save the statistical abstract:
The agency’s 2012 budget would eliminate the Statistical Compendia Branch, which compiles the Stat Abstract and other publications (example: the “County and City Data Book”). The cut: $2.9 million and 24 jobs. Both the book and online versions of the Stat Abstract would vanish. This is a mighty big loss for a mighty small saving.
It can be argued that much of what’s in the Stat Abstract is online somewhere. True — but irrelevant. Many government and private databases are hard to access and search, even if you know what you want. Often, you don’t. The Stat Abstract has two great virtues. First, it conveniently presents in one place a huge amount of information from a vast array of government and private sources. For example, the National Fire Protection Association tells us that 30,170 fire departments fought 1.45 million fires in 2008. Second, the footnotes show where to get more information.
Paul Krugman, Economists, librarians are all starting a petition to save the abstract and if anyone cares about accurate statistics, you should click the link and sign it.
We need more statistics! Take this one for example, corporations hold close to their chest offshore outsourcing statistics. G.E. alone has reduced U.S. headcount from 54% to 46% over the last decade. IBM literally does not publish their U.S. headcount. Think you can discover easily the number of say engineers who were forced out of their careers now working at Home Depot? Not right now you can't.
While some of the BEA, BLS and Census budget requests are questionable, the reality is we need employment statistics based on citizenship status, we need offshore outsourcing data, more accuracy, better survey's and a much better understanding of productivity and globalization's contributions to it. Cutting these agencies is a brown out and will lead to more economic fiction and theoretical creationism than is already plaguing politics and policy.
Remember, multinational corporations like nothing better than lack of disclosure:
Some of the country’s best-known multinational corporations closely guard a number they don’t want anyone to know: the breakdown between their jobs here and abroad.
So secretive are these companies that they hand the figure over to government statisticians on the condition that officials will release only an aggregate number.