Politics

Bush Administration Hides More Data, Shuts Down Website Tracking U.S. Economic Indicators

The U.S. economy is faltering. Family debt is on the rise, benefits are disappearing, the deficit is skyrocketing, and the mortgage crisis has worsened. Conservatives have attempted to deflect attention from the crisis, by blaming the media’s negative coverage and insisting the United States is not headed toward a recession, despite what economists are predicting.

The Bush administration’s latest move is to simply hide the data. Forbes has awarded EconomicIndicators.gov one of its “Best of the Web” awards. As Forbes explains, the government site provides an invaluable service to the public for accessing U.S. economic data:

This site is maintained by the Economics and Statistics Administration and combines data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, like GDP and net imports and exports, and the Census Bureau, like retail sales and durable goods shipments. The site simply links to the relevant department’s Web site. This might not seem like a big deal, but doing it yourself–say, trying to find retail sales data on the Census Bureau’s site–is such an exercise in futility that it will convince you why this portal is necessary.

Yet the Bush administration has decided to shut down this site because of “budgetary constraints,” effective March 1:

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Economic Indicators is particularly useful because people can sign up to receive e-mails as soon as new economic data across government agencies becomes available. While the data will still be available online at various federal websites, it will be less readily accessible to members of the public.

In its e-mail announcement on the closing of Economic Indicators, the Department of Commerce acknowledged the “inconvenience” and offered “a free quarterly subscription to STAT-USA®/Internet„¢” instead. Once this temporary subscription runs out, however, the public will be forced to pay a fee. So not only will economic data be more hidden, it will also cost money.

It’s ironic that the Economic and Statistics Administration is facing “budgetary contraints,” considering Bush recently submitted a record $3.1 trillion budget to Congress for FY ’09.

UPDATE: Steve Benen has compiled other examples of the Bush administration hiding inconvenient data.

UPDATE II: OMB Watch has put together an index to replace Economic Indicators, offering one-stop-shopping for economic data links.

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