By David Cay Johnston
The opinions expressed are his own.
The Obama administration’s support for killing off the U.S. Statistical Abstract underscores what’s wrong with Washington’s approach to cutting the budget. This nearly thousand-page compendium of official data is in its 130th and evidently last edition since 1878. It is published online and in print.
Taxpayers will save the $2.9 million it costs in a year to compile the data from a multitude of government, academic, nonprofit and industry websites.
But how much time will be wasted hunting for data without this ready reference? How much will state and local taxpayers pay for the extra time reference desk librarians need to answer questions? How many questions will go unanswered? And what of the Statistical Abstract’s value in quickly and efficiently pointing to other sources for a deeper look that spares researchers having to hunt through the vast array of government and private websites?
Corporations, entrepreneurs, researchers and state and local taxpayers will pay much more than what the federal government saves.
It’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with Washington’s approach. The conventional wisdom, a dogma for some, is that federal spending must be cut because government costs more than we can afford.