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Wed Oct 28, 2020, 08:11 PM

Trump's war on data

Longish, wide-ranging, worth a read.


By Samanth Subramanian


..."The frightening thing is that Trump’s war on data isn’t limited to the pandemic. It has been waged throughout the federal government, warping policy and enfeebling institutions from the inside. Over nearly four years, his administration has defunded, buried and constrained dozens of federal research and data collection projects across multiple agencies and spheres of policy: environment, agriculture, labor, health, immigration, energy, the census. “It scares me,” said Katherine Smith Evans, a former administrator of the Economic Research Service, an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “There are enough chances to make bad policy without lacking the data to make good policy.” We are witnessing a widespread act of erasure.

The impulse to ascribe this to a Republican devotion to small government is a mistaken one. “I don’t see an all-hands-on-board effort to get rid of everything,” Katherine Wallman, who was the chief statistician of the U.S. from 1992 to 2017, told me. “What I do see is that they’re taking on the inconvenient data. Or trying to get data that could help a particular point.” The ERS, which Evans ran until 2011, is a prime case. Sonny Perdue, the secretary of agriculture, complained last year that the agency’s research—which, among many other things, tells America how crop prices are moving, what school lunches ought to contain and who needs food stamps—was “based on political science rather than strong science.” The ERS was finding repeatedly that trade deals benefit U.S. farmers and that federal spending on food stamps had dropped steadily since 2013, flatly contradicting the administration’s claims on both counts.

In June 2019, Perdue told the ERS that its offices would be relocating from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri. It was a tactic of brute force, executed in the knowledge that many employees wouldn’t move their lives halfway across the country. Budgets were scheduled to be cut in 2020, in any case. By October 2019, two-thirds of ERS positions were vacant. “I think it’s a decent hypothesis,” Evans said, “that some research results were uncomfortable or inconvenient, and that may have led to a desire to see the agency cut.”

The meticulous assembly of numbers is one of the government’s most overlooked functions, but it’s also one of the most vital. Federal statistics inform the administration about what problems have arisen, who is in distress, and where resources need to go. Citizens aggregate themselves in public data—forcing the state to heed them when individually they might be muted or ignored, and holding officials accountable if their needs aren’t met. By gutting the collection of federal statistics, the Trump administration is burning away the government’s capacity to regulate. By attacking numeracy, it is attacking democracy.'

. . . more

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swag Oct 2020 OP
dchill Oct 2020 #1
murielm99 Oct 2020 #2

Response to swag (Original post)

Wed Oct 28, 2020, 08:14 PM

1. Warp the data. What could go wrong?

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Response to swag (Original post)

Thu Oct 29, 2020, 04:14 AM

2. Very early in the trump administration,

a college professor addressed a so-called town hall I attended. (The repiggie Congressman did not show up).

He told us that climate information was being destroyed. Scientists at his university were sending data to friendly colleagues in Canada, in an informal manner. The people in Canada were saving it for a time when responsible people would again take charge of our government.

I realize this is anecdotal. But smart people were figuring this out three years ago.

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