I’m going to take the charitable (though probably mistaken) view and say that Representative Daniel Webster was not deliberately trying to turn out the lights on Americans’ access to critical data when he proposed an amendment to defund the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

I tried (unsuccessfully) last year (here, here) to salvage the Statistical Abstract of the United States, a vital source of data since 1878. In fact, the book Fundamentals of Government Information – Mining, Finding, Evaluating and Using Government Resources says (emphasis mine):

The following chapters in Part 2 are arranged by broad topic area, starting with Statistical Information (Chapter 8), and the simple becomes multifaceted as we show the many ways in which government documents librarians utilize their most essential reference work, the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

So the “most essential reference work” utilized by government documents librarians is now gone, for a savings of about $2.9 million, not even a rounding error on a rounding error.

And the ACS is apparently next. As the NY Times points out, Representative Webster has a link on his page for those interested in “Census Data for the 8th District.” Where does the link go? To the ACS, of course. The same ACS that Representative Webster now wants to defund. Amazing.

The effort to kill the ACS is opposed by even the right-leaning Wall St. Journal, as well the New York Times and the Washington Post (see also here).

Here is a comment from the Census Director regarding the consequences of losing the ACS (though I confess he wasn’t quite as worked up about losing the Stat Ab). Finally, here is a series of videos about the importance of the ACS to various target audiences, among which I include myself.

The charitable view is that it’s all about cost savings. The not-so-charitable view is that it’s about death by a thousand cuts to the vital information that informs us as to where we’ve been, where we are, and helps us plan where we’re going and craft a better future for all Americans. “Operating in the Dark,” as the Times puts it. This must not stand.



Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Markets, Politics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

27 Responses to “If Information Is Power, What Is Lack Of Information?”

  1. Frilton Miedman says:

    Plantation owners banned slaves from learning to read for the same reason.

  2. PeterR says:

    Unfortunately, for most people “lack of information” is the same as too much information.


    Lemmings to the sea.

  3. dbrodess says:


  4. Lookout Ranch says:

    Facts have a well-know liberal bias. Without them its easier to justify faith-based policies.

  5. biscuits says:

    Sure sounds like bias of some sort.
    “Facts have a well-know liberal bias. “

  6. biscuits says:

    Easier to spread the propaganda without those pesky fact finders looking into everything.

  7. roger erickson says:

    For heaven’s sake. Knowledge is only POTENTIAL power. It’s not power unless acted on, and with the right tempo.

    Lack of info is therefore reduced potential.

  8. susiek says:

    This is so frustrating to me. The government data (Census, BLS, BEA, USGS, etc.) all are used by businesses either directly or via another company layering their own data on top of the gov data and selling to companies in the form of market research. Losing Stat Abs was horrible and while I hope ProQuest does a decent job of replacing it, I just don’t know if they can as they won’t have the same access to the data that the Census did. An added benefit of these data is that it is freely available so startups that cannot afford the pricier research reports can do their own digging. All these cuts for minor programs are going to have a bigger effect on the economy than they realize. I’m not sure if I’m using the correct metaphor here, but it’s like Webster is cutting off his nose to spite his face. Stupid and short sighted.

  9. Pantmaker says:

    Bloomberg.com !! he he

  10. 873450 says:

    Ignorance is bliss for the chosen. We are exceptional and don’t need historic facts or complicated statistics to justify progress. All the earth’s and moon’s (Thanks Newt!) resources were created for us to exploit. The polar bears and indigenous tribes still living in the stone age on their tiny, submerging, Pacific island nations are going extinct only because they can’t hack change and now it’s just their time to go. History, science, logic, etc. are the elite’s propagandist tools that must be taken away from them. Our exceptional destiny is pre-determined and the rest of the world can only get used to it, stand back out of our way and watch.

  11. Through the Looking Glass says:

    Heres some knowledge that has been swept under the rug. Does everone/anyone really believe that we are in Afghanistan to chase down some sand fleas hiding in the, mountains? We are there to secure the mineral assets for the the US just as we did in Iraq. Heres the beef:
    I also have to laugh at those who actually believe that solar is an energy substitute in areas that dont get 300 days of full sunlight. It would take solar cells the size of a large backpack to power an IPOD for 4 hours after a charge of 6-8 hours in full sunlight!!! You really think it can power a factory or 10 ? Solar is a bigger hoax than ethanol! Solar is stock , not reality.
    Lets get real. Knowledge is different from information. The people with the “knowledge” disseminate it through easily digestible channels owned by the ruling class that is happy to pass the soma out for free to unwitting populations to protect their interests.
    In the final analysis knowledge is top secret and information is the cheap substitute for knowledge that pacifies the masses . BS is what passes for knowledge and thats the accepted currency…they are taking care of us.
    Knowledge is power only to the elite few .

  12. constantnormal says:

    Who benefits from ignorance? Those who can then apply money to direct Congressional action without the hindrance of the “facts” getting in the way.

  13. cgguy says:

    And how much does a single cruise missile cost? You never hear about someone trying to scale back the military…or at least not on the MSM. Priorities are out-of-whack here.

  14. Petey Wheatstraw says:


  15. machinehead says:

    Has any commenter here actually seen the ACS questionnaire? It is an intrusive, multi-page form asking about the most intimate details of your life:

    To help communities, state governments, and federal programs, we ask about:

    family and relationships
    income and benefits
    health insurance
    veteran status
    where you work and how you get there
    where you live and how much you pay for some essentials


    Nowhere in the constitution is this sort of Big Brother prying authorized. The census was supposed to be just a nose count.

    ACS is how our plutocratic plantation owners take a peek at what’s goin’ on inside their slave shacks.

    Good frickin’ riddance to ACS!

  16. denim says:

    Via Mark Thoma’s links to Timothy Taylor , ignorance is an asset.

  17. normal1 says:

    After taking a gander at this Webster guy’s site, I can see that he’s a loyal soldier to his party. From what I’ve read, he tends to stick to the “script” and do his part in reiterating talking points. So, I’m suprised I didn’t see a huge banner on his front page boldly proclaiming that he’s not afraid to speak out in support of controversial topics like children and kittens.

    Not to mention his role in the Terri Shiavo case, a very revealing moment for his party, IMHO.

    But, back to pandering and following the script. There’s plenty others like this guy, all throughout the country, who work to pillage and tear apart government services paid for the people for use by the people, and allow private companies to take over and create a market they can manipulate. When the stated goal is efficiency and streamlining, how can anyone argue with that? That’s just part of the capitalist system, right? We all know this one by now, don’t we?

    And, as a loyal party member, he’s probably fighting hard to stop illegal immigration. So, since some of the questions ask about race and numbers of family memebers, I would think he’d find that very valuable in preparing a plan to deal with “the problem.” Maybe he could also compare this data with the welfare numbers to see just how bad the immigrants are stealing from the taxpayers? See, if we could make these selling points to him, perhaps he’d realize how helpful this information could be in dealing with a VERY SERIOUS THREAT TO AMERICAN LIFE (immigrants!) and he could be a hero to his party.

    Just trying to make some lemonade…..

  18. NoKidding says:

    Are you also on a quest to save Encyclopedia Britanica?

    Invictus: Apples and oranges. The rise of the Internet rendered the Encyclopedia obsolete as well as unprofitable. The ACS is not obsolete by any stretch, and was not conceived to turn a profit.

  19. blackvegetable says:

    Webster is the guy the Teabg crowd insisted would be a better option than Posterchild of The American Dream, Bootstraps Alan “Give ‘em Hell” Grayson……I say – BRING BACK THE GIANT MORON EATING BIRDS OF PREY!

  20. DeDude says:

    In order to co-opt our government and make it work exclusively for their own personal benefit at the cost of the people, our masters must control the information. When they can dictate and manipulate “facts” then they can confuse the sheeple and get them to act against their own interest. That is why they created Fox and why they are fighting education (ivory towers) and information (government statistics). Decisions made based on facts may or may not go against them, but decisions made on lies that they have constructed will never go against them.

  21. NMR says:

    It pains me to say it but the pursuit of ignorance has become part of the Republican party ideology. Their resistance to gathering data in the Healthcare industry (in which I work) is disgraceful.

  22. psychjob says:

    lack of information = ignorance
    ignorance = bliss

  23. albnyc says:

    While the cost seems deminimis, can’t the private sector provide this information (likely more cheaply)?

  24. albnyc says:

    *cost savings

  25. CANDollar says:

    This is what is coming to America:
    Here in Canada our government first eliminated what we call the “long form census” which is a randomly selected census that every 30 census takers must fill out. It was deemed personally invasive and required to be voluntary. It will mean many of the most useful data sets will be incomplete from now on. The chief statistician of the country quit in revulsion. In protest more people actually voluntarily filled them out but it is not a random set.

    The government is now gutting the staff of Statistics Canada and eliminating many business and economic indicators as well as other data series used for marketing and other purposes.

    Apart from austerity one reason for these moves is that you cannot deliver social programs if you do not know who you are delivering them too. Ignorance is bliss!

    I hope you do not go down this road.

  26. ToNYC says:

    A Republic gone rogue into Global Empire needs to cover the meters lest too many notice the dials pinned and speeding is out of control. Where’s Batman; the Joker’s taking US for a Free Ride!!