Though we seldom think of them this way, America's statistical agencies are the very eyes and ears of our democracy. When they are functioning properly, they provide essential information to help the public and its elected representatives see what is going right in our country-and what is going wrong. Such information is crucial for forming a more perfect union.
Without timely and accurate information on our domestic problems, our government cannot hope to address these swiftly, much less effectively. Whether you are a progressive or a conservative, in favor of more government or less of it, you need good data to inform your own efforts to make our country better.
America was the first government in the modern era to recognize the importance of evidence-based public policy. Our Constitution mandated a decennial census-a truly revolutionary notion back in the late eighteenth century. And for most of our history, the U.S. statistical system has been well ahead of the curve, if not a virtual wonder of the world.
No longer. Today our government statistical services are failing at some vital missions-and they have generally been falling away from the global forefront for at least a generation. In key fields we see not only stagnation, but even retrogression. The painful truth is that our statistical services are currently incapable of providing some of the basic facts and figures we need for confronting our most pressing domestic social troubles.
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