GOP Census Bill Would Eliminate America's Economic Indicators
WASHINGTON -- A group of Republicans are cooking up legislation that could give President Barack Obama an unintentional assist with disagreeable unemployment numbers -- by eliminating the key economic statistic altogether.
The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), would bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except for a decennial population count. Such a step that would end the government's ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal.
Yes, I know what you're thinking, but no, this is not from The Onion. Eliminate any data about unemployment, and voila, unemployment drops down to 0%! BRILLIANT!!
"They simply wouldn't exist. We won't have an unemployment rate," said Ken Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University.Of course, a few Debbie Downers just had to point out that there could be a few unintended consequences...
"I don't know how the market reacts if there is suddenly no unemployment rate at the start of the month," Prewitt said. "How does the market react if we don't have a GDP [gross domestic product]?"Fundamental, schmundamental. We're Republicans, we don't need any of those fancy-college-boy "facts" or "data"...
"Do they understand that these data that the Census Bureau collects are fundamental to everything else that's done?" asked Maurine Haver, founder of business research firm Haver Analytics and a past president of the National Association for Business Economics. "They think the country doesn't need to know how many people are unemployed, either?"
A spokesman for Duncan declined to explain why the congressman wants to eliminate such data or even whether he understands that the data would be compromised by his bill, which has 10 co-sponsors.And once again, this is an actual bill that's actually been proposed by actual members of the actual United States House of Representatives:
But the proposed Census Reform Act (PDF) is explicit in its intent to end nearly every survey the Census conducts, mandating the "repeal" of the nation's agricultural census, economic census, government census and mid-decade census.Y'know, aside from the idiocy of this idea, which has layers and layers (just like an Onion, come to think of it!), on a more chilling level, it also reminds me of a passage from 1984:
But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty's figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head.Welcome to your modern Republican Party, folks.
For example, the Ministry of Plenty's forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.