As America’s national leaders get ready to tackle the country’s serious challenges, they will need solid information on which to base their decisions.

Unfortunately, with its recent vote to defund the American Community Survey, the U.S. House of Representatives has undercut the most dependable source of information they should be relying upon.

The House voted to cut all funding for the Census Bureau’s annual collection of data on the economic, demographic and housing characteristics of U.S. households. Backers of the plan called the annual survey of 3 million random households “unconstitutional” and “an invasion of privacy” and balked at the relatively modest price tag of $2.4 billion a decade. This action, along with a current move in the Senate to enact “compromise” legislation that would make the American Community Survey (ACS) voluntary, works against laudable efforts by Congress to eliminate ineffective programs and curtail government waste.

The ACS is a vital tool for growing businesses and our economy. Without the critical demographic data provided by the ACS, businesses would play a guessing game when it comes to decisions such as where to open new stores, what to stock and what services to provide. State and local governments would not know how to allocate funding for everything from police patrols to healthcare to senior housing. The result would be more government waste, not less.

I speak from experience.

As governor of Michigan during the age of welfare reform, data from the decennial census long form – the precursor to the ACS – provided a useful roadmap for identifying populations with the greatest need and developing strategies that would help families move off welfare and into the workforce. Without data, we could not have determined which programs were effective and which were not.