June 28, 2019

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) reminds the public of the important work performed by economists, researchers and statisticians at government agencies that is crucial to the functioning of our markets.

The Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Agriculture cost taxpayers very little compared to the value of the information they provide about our economy. Their data drives decision-making on Wall Street and Main Street.

As Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, told the SABEW annual conference in May, “Statistics from federal agencies are vitally important to our understanding of what’s going on in the U.S. economy.”

For example, BLS was appropriated $615 million for the current fiscal year, equal to the price tag of a single large palace in Turkey. (See note 1 and 2.)

BEA was appropriated $101 million for the current fiscal year. That’s how much “Chariot,” a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, sold for at auction a few years ago. The appropriation is also less than the cost of one F-35 fighter plane. (See note 1 and 3.)

SABEW calls on the Trump administration and Congress to commit to providing adequate funds for statistical agencies.

SABEW also is concerned about the future of the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service.

The service, now based in Washington, has seen an exodus of experienced personnel after their work was criticized by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and others for undercutting administration policy. Perdue said in June the research service would move from Washington to the Kansas City area to save money and be closer to farmers. Critics said the move would disrupt the service’s work by producing a brain drain.

SABEW is concerned Perdue’s plan will impair the research service’s ability to provide information on a vital economic sector: agriculture. (See note 4.)

Note 1: Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics

Note 2: Newsweek, 2014

Note 3: CNBC, 2014The Fiscal Times, 2015

Note 4: The Washington Post, 2019;  Politico, 2019