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Market Commentary

Congressional Threat to Every Investor, Business Owner and Citizen - Part 1
May 19, 2012   David Kotok, Chairman & Chief Investment Officer

This is an open letter in response to legislation recently passed in the US House of Representatives.  The behavior of Representative Harold Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has made the front page of The New York Times, describing the $17,000 drip pan for Black Hawk helicopters that is earmarked for his district in Kentucky. 

The US House of Representatives, that includes his leadership, has passed Bill H.R. 5326.  This legislation decimates the statistical agencies that support the entire fabric of business investment, policy-making, and decision-making in the United States.

This action speaks volumes concerning the failure in Congressional accountability to review this legislation thoroughly and the abysmal behavior of Congressional leadership to permit it to pass.  This threatens the economic recovery and long-term growth trend of the United States. 

Below is a copy of a letter sent to the membership of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE).  It recounts the important elements of the legislation that must be opposed.  It also gives the appropriate number and reference in the US Senate version.  It contains sample text which citizens can use to send letters, emails or telephone calls when it comes to lobbying on their behalf. 

We are asking all who read our list serve to use this information, publicize it to others, and to stress to those in Congress that while we support some of their efforts in fiscal discipline, we do not support the emasculation of the agencies mentioned and the destruction of the statistical base that is essential to the ongoing business and investment climate in the United States.

I discussed this legislation with Bob Parker, Former Chief Statistician of the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Government Accountability Office.  Bob is a good friend and colleague in several economist organizations where we are both active.  He is the most skilled professional I know.

Bob said that this legislation would "eliminate the economic census.  That means no more bench-marking of key indicators such as retail sales, service receipts, manufacturers shipments and orders, trade inventories, industrial production index, etc."

So dear reader, this legislation can really cost and hurt you. Please act now while damage can be mitigated.

Thank you.

Dear NABE Members and Friends:

Last week, we alerted you that the U.S. House of Representatives was considering an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (H.R. 5326) that would drastically reduce funding for the Census Bureau and make participation in the American Community Survey voluntary. Thanks to the many NABE members and other data users who contacted their representatives to try to prevent this action. Regrettably, the legislation ultimately passed the House along party lines and was much more damaging than originally proposed. In its current form, H.R. 5326 will "devastate" the nation's economic statistics.

Specifically, the legislation will:

Terminate the American Community Survey;
Cancel the 2012 Economic Census; and
Halt development of cost-saving measures for the decennial census.

NEXT STEPS:

The Senate is expected to take up its own FY2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies appropriations bill shortly. The Senate and House versions of the bill will then presumably be addressed by a conference committee comprised of members of both bodies.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Call or email your senators and representative today to tell them why you value the Economic Census and the American Community Survey. You can use this sample letter below:

 

Dear :

I am writing to express my concern over passage of H.R. 5326 by the U.S. House of Representatives, which would drastically cut funding for the U.S. Census Bureau and eliminate the Economic Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) - two of the most important tools we have for understanding the U.S. economy.

These programs are critically important to businesses, policymakers, and government agencies which use the data to make informed decisions and plan for the future. The increased uncertainty accompanying the loss of these data will most certainly result in more missed opportunities and waste for businesses and misallocation of resources by policymakers and government agencies. I urge you to ensure that the Census Bureau receives adequate funding to continue these vital programs.

How are Economic Census data used?

By the federal government as an input to calculate elements of key economic indicators, such as economic growth (GDP), prices, and productivity;
By retailers in evaluating whether to expand into new market geographies;
By economic development commissions in attracting new businesses to their areas; and
By companies to benchmark performance against industry averages

How are ACS data used?

By corporations to examine workforce characteristics of neighborhoods to determine optimal locations for new factories or sales centers;
By homebuilders looking to tailor new subdivisions to surrounding neighborhoods based on income, family size and existing home values; and
By municipal governments in planning to meet the educational, safety and housing needs of their citizens.

The information we glean from the Economic Census and the ACS increases our understanding of current economic conditions and reduces uncertainty, allowing businesses and policymakers to make well-informed, efficient decisions. If we eliminate these programs, we are choosing to "fly blind," an alarming proposition in these challenging economic times. Again, I urge you that you vote to ensure adequate funding for both the ACS and the Economic Census.

Sincerely,

David Kotok, Chairman & Chief Investment Officer
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