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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

APDU’s public letter in support of Federal statistical programs

I was so glad to see that the Association of Public Data users (APDU) just sent a letter in support of federal statistical agencies to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. This letter has well over 700 signatories (including FGI!) from organizations including the National Association for Business Economists and the NAACP and individuals such as Katherine Wallman and Dean Baker. This is a critical time for federal statistics with funding for ALL federal programs seemingly on the chopping blocks. Keep the pressure on your representatives by calling and/or writing to them to save — and better fund! — federal statistical programs!

We are concerned that a lack of appreciation for the critical importance of our Federal statistical and data systems may worsen, and are worried that, after years of insufficient funding, these systems face deeper funding cuts and further marginalization. Our nation, economy, businesses and citizens rely on the nonpartisan, gold-standard data provided by several agencies, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, the Energy Information Administration, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income, the Social Security Administration Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics.

These data resources benefit individual citizens who seek information to:

  • guide their career and education choices,
  • gain a clearer sense of wages and benefits on offer for different careers,
  • choose a community in which to live.

Our Democracy relies on Federal data for:

  • Apportionment — population count determines allocation of legislative seats by
  • Redistricting — state legislatures use population counts and characteristics to determine
    legislative boundaries,
  • Voting and civil rights — Congress and the Supreme Court explicitly rely on data to ensure compliance with voting and civil rights laws.

Federal data resources help the public sector to:

  • evaluate programs
  • support evidence-based decision-making,
  • project tax collections and craft budgets,
  • guide fiscal and monetary policy,
  • target limited resources,
  • design policy and programs, such as in housing, health, education and training, economic development, transportation, and criminal justice,
  • index many benefits and tax brackets to inflation,
  • work with local businesses when making investments.

“In Order That They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts”

Because the Trump Administration has questioned the accuracy of federal statistics such as the unemployment rate and because of reports that it will propose substantial cuts to government statistical agencies, the Hamilton Project and The American Enterprise Institute have released a new report about the vital importance of data collected by the federal government.

Objective, impartial data collection by federal statistical agencies is vital to informing decisions made by businesses, policy makers, and families. These measurements make it possible to have a productive discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of particular policies, and about the state of the economy. This document demonstrates a portion of the breadth and importance of government statistics to public policy and the economy.

The quotation in the title is from James Madison. The report includes chapters on business, policy, and families, a section on "How to Strengthen Public Data," and a substantial bibliography,

See also Defending the Data by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn, and Megan Mumford. The Hamilton Project (March 1, 2017).

Government Statistics Under Trump

Scientists and statisticians are worried that the 115th Congress and Trump Administration will harm the collection of statistical data by the government, according to several articles cited in the January 31, 2017 Ocassional Note of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS).

  • Trump shouldn’t close the doors on government data, By Catherine Rampell. Washington Post (January 9, 2017).

    “Almost [every economist interviewed at the recent meeting of the American Economic Association] mentioned concerns about the continued integrity and availability of government data. The prospect of yet more funding cuts for the statistical agencies, layered with Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to discredit government numbers, bode ill for academics, businesses, households and policymakers alike.”

  • Scientists fear pending attack on federal statistics collection, by Jeffrey Mervis. Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, (Jan. 3, 2017).

    The article quotes Representative Mick Mulvaney (R–SC), who Trump has chosen to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as saying about the American Community Survey, “The government shouldn’t be trying to bully people.”

  • Notes on President-Elect Trump’s Pick for Budget Director, by Matt Hourihan. the American Association for the Advancement of Science (22 December 2016).

    In a detailed analysis of OMB appointee Mulvaney, Hourihan notes that Mulvaney has, among other things, questioned the relationship between Zika and birth defects, asked whether “we really need government-funded research at all,” fought for deep cuts to discretionary spending, which contains virtually all science and technology spending, voted to zero out funding for the American Community Survey, and voted to prevent funding for political science research at the National Science Foundation.

See the complete issue of An Occasional Note from the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, January 31, 2017 [pdf] on the COPAFS website.