The Ryan Budget May Cut Economic Data

The proposed Ryan budget cuts could damage the ability to track the economy
Photograph by Jim Corwin/Getty Images

Starting in the early 1990s, the U.S. Census Bureau asked Congress for extra funding each year so it could better analyze the services sector, which was quickly replacing industrial activity as the biggest driver of the U.S. economy. In 2003 the bureau requested more funding to survey financial, real estate, and other companies on a quarterly basis, rather than wait to take their pulse with its Economic Census, which gathers data on business every five years. Census data are funneled to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which shares its conclusions with the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the Federal Reserve Board, and Congress. Every year, Census asked for the extra funds; every year, Congress denied them the money, leaving the Census Bureau largely blind to the health of a sector that made up more than half the total economy.

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