Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Survey Says

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Survey Says

Article excerpt

WHEN lawmakers in Washington cast around for something to cut from the budget, they like to turn to government surveys. After all, what constituency will raise a fuss about data collection? Nothing sexy in that headline.

This year's candidate for the chopping block is the American Community Survey, an invaluable source for government officials, businesses and academics to figure out where to allocate funds, set up companies and detect national trends.

Republicans say it costs too much money, and besides, the probing questionnaire is an invasion of privacy. Wrong and wrong. The survey should be funded at an even higher level and government has been asking these kinds of questions since the early 1900s. The American Community Survey must be saved, and it's up to the Senate to do it.

A bill to cut the funding next year has already passed the House of Representatives. A similar measure is pending in the Senate, included in larger legislation that is part of the federal government's proposed budget for next year.

The Democrats want to keep the survey, but, as Staff Writer Dave Sheingold reports, the rather small $242 million annual cost could come into play as lawmakers tussle over cutting the $3.8 trillion budget.

But getting rid of the survey is like cutting off America's nose to spite its face. Yes, we save that tiny amount, but we do great harm in the process.

The American Community Survey is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Unlike its once-a-decade cousin, however, it's released each year. Respondents answer a variety of questions, including on income and salaries, disabilities, commuting, health insurance, rent or mortgage, education and home heating and plumbing.

Those answers provide all sorts of government agencies and business groups with relevant information. State and federal officials use the data to figure out how to portion out more than $400 billion each year. …

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