There’s an interesting post by Nicholas Eberstadt at RealClearMarkets on just how little data the federal government collects any more:
In the fifteen fiscal years between 1998 and 2013, overall federal spending, after adjusting for inflation, rose by about a sixth (16%) for each man, woman and child in our country-notwithstanding the “budget sequester”. But for the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)-the agency that doesn’t have the money any more to calculate national marriage and divorce probabilities-real per capita spending went down approximately 7%. It looks to be down 15% for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, the unit that follows U.S. employment conditions ) and by over 25% for our most celebrated statistical organ, the U.S. Census Bureau. Though real per capita funding has also risen over the past decade and a half for some of our statistical agencies, most of the main ones appear to have been squeezed-if not starved.
Talk about false economies. Do we really want our government to be a blinded giant?
Unless the public and our leaders commit to reversing the decay of our government information systems, Americans must be willing to accept the certain degradation of the quality of democratic governance in our country for years to come.
I think that the increasing retreat by our political parties into ideological strongholds exacerbates the problem to which he draws attention. What do you need with data when you’ve already decided on the solution?