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Bring Back our National Statistics

Cuts to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ budget should have us all concerned.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is considering cutting more of its data reports, this time weighing the elimination of Import-Export Pricing Data. Far from saving tax-payers money, the potential cut will hobble the ability for both our government and our exporters to have the information they need to innovate and compete in a changing global marketplace.

The BLS’s Import-Export Pricing is a valuable part of its Price and Cost of Living report. The report collects data on goods entering and exiting the country and the prices of those goods by polling U.S. companies. The data gives producers vital information on trends in world prices and provides the public with information on U.S. inflation, economic output, and the overall well-being and competitiveness of American business.

Unfortunately, eliminating Import-Export Pricing is not an isolated example of the government’s growing information crisis. Across the board, budget cuts and sequestration has severely reduced efforts by the BLS, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce to produce timely and high-quality data to assess traded sector competitiveness. The BLS has already eliminated its International Labor Comparisons Program as well as state level data on manufacturing property plants and equipment in the last five years.

However, reducing the quality of trade statistics is a terrible way to save money. These programs actually prevent wasteful spending by providing a clear road-map of the international marketplace and our constantly evolving position in it. Armed with this data government is able to identify smart policies that help keep our businesses competitive with those in the rest of the world. In fact, ITIF lists increasing budgets for federal agencies assessing trade statistics as a key measure for increasing global competitiveness and has also called for the creation of a National Statistics Agency to better oversee and support the data analysis that is vital to long term economic health.

Data allows for a cognizant, adaptive government instead of a hulking bureaucratic leviathan that cannot identify and react to its weaknesses. Saving taxpayer money requires finding innovative solutions based on data-driven analysis and requires understanding to the best of our ability the repercussions of our actions. Stripping key gauges of our economic health and well-being is comparable to throwing our compass overboard for ballast and sailing blind into a hurricane.

Please, if you support slashing the federal budget, slash elsewhere.

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About the author

Adams Nager is an economic policy analyst at ITIF. He researches and writes on innovation economics, manufacturing policy, and the importance of STEM education and high-skilled immigration. Nager holds an M.A. in political economy and public policy and a B.A. in economics, both from Washington University in St. Louis.