altivo: Rearing Clydesdale (angry rearing)
[personal profile] altivo
Statistical Abstract of the United States, the annually-produced compendium of data about the US economy and population, is doomed.

I missed the original controversy last year when in a fit of (no doubt GOP-inspired) cost cutting, the Bureau of the Census decided to stop producing this report. The estimated savings? They cut 24 full time jobs and saved a measly three million dollars a year, effectively killing a reputable source of information relied upon by social, economic, and marketing researchers since 1878.

But wait, the annual volume will still be prepared by the private corporations ProQuest and Bernan. The Bureau of the Census will no longer even collect the data, though. ProQuest must come up with the figures on its own. I don't know about you, but I trust a private capitalist corporation to do this impartially about as much as I could single-handedly throw the entire set of volumes from 1878 to 2012 across the street. This is like appointing Fox News to publish the Federal Register (and maybe that will be next.)

The 2012 volume, last to be printed and distributed by the Government Printing Office, cost $36 in paperback or $41 in hardcover. So what is ProQuest's price for the 2013 volume? It just arrived on my desk with an invoice for $180. If the data were still being generated by the federal government and paid for by taxpayers, this would be unconscionable. ProQuest can no doubt justify the price based on the need to collect the data itself, but I question the methodology and do not trust the impartiality of the result.

A lot of what can be derived from the Statistical Abstract is pretty embarrassing to the United States, when you come right down to it. Levels of poverty, education, health care etc. are far worse than we are often led to believe. Availability of high technology such as broadband internet, digital television, or cell phone services is still concentrated in the densely populated areas and often completely lacking in rural communities. The Bureau of the Census has done an admirable (if politically unpopular) job of detailing and reporting these facts over the years. Now we are about to trade those facts for a glossy, shined-up corporate report on the glories of free markets and capitalism. Blech.

I have recommended that we cancel our standing order for Statistical Abstract and return the 2013 volume to the publisher.

Date: 2013-01-03 08:07 pm (UTC)
ext_238564: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I remember now the news reports about this. I think the supporters of the cuts in the Census Bureau are wrong; there IS a national interest in this data. After all, businesses use it in their efforts to grow, and doesn't the government exist for the benefit of businesses? I know I'm being cynical, and, as you allude, not all the data was useful to businesses or supporters of the status quo, but still...

Date: 2013-01-04 10:58 pm (UTC)
ext_238564: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
They duplicate research perhaps out of the reasons you cite, or maybe because they don't know it's already there. What's that saying about never attribute to malice what could be attributed to incompetence? Not that incompetence is good either. How much could be saved if people just stopped reinventing the same wheels? But since these are politicians, I'm perfectly willing to agree, in a lot of cases, they're trying to come up with more pleasing results for their own political ends.

What you said about the FCC's theory of "failure to adopt" vs. "inability to obtain" is interesting. I don't have much to say, but it does have me thinking.

Date: 2013-01-04 09:06 pm (UTC)
avon_deer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avon_deer
Wow..that's kinda like asking my neighbourhood fox if he minds looking after the hens while I'm away.

Date: 2013-01-04 10:29 pm (UTC)
avon_deer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avon_deer
We have a similar sort of thing going on in the UK with ATOS being given the "contract" to vet disabled people to see if they really ARE disabled enough to warrant incapacity benefit.

In fairness it was Labour that instigated this horrorshow rather than the Conservatives. But to me, this only serves to underline how similar the two are now.

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