GOP Rep Daniel Webster Bashes Census Survey As "Random" Rather Than "Scientific"

A blog about business and economics.
May 20 2012 5:24 PM

GOP Rep Daniel Webster Bashes Census Survey As "Random" Rather Than "Scientific"

1337549048709
Official photo

Rep Daniel Webster (R-FL)

One of the useful things the federal government does for the economy is produce information as a public good. And the American Community Survey is chock full of information that's useful to researchers, companies, curious individuals, policymakers at different levels of government, etc. But House Republicans have decided that they want to kill it, and it seems clear that some of them have a passion for the cause that completely exceeds their understanding of the issue. Representative Daniel Webster, for example, is a sponsor of the anti-ACS survey in part because he thinks $70 per survey respondent is "not cost effective ... especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey."

In reality, of course, what would not be cost effective would be to try to survey every single American on such a frequent basis. By making the sample random the Census Bureau is able to make scientifically valid inferences about the state of the overall population. It's a little bit sad that any member of congress doesn't understand this, but effective representative democracy (thankfully) doesn't require members of congress to be well-informed about every subject under the sun. It does, however, require members of congress to try to be well-informed about the sub-set of issues they choose to become active on. Webster is badly, badly failing that test here.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.