A reader writes:
Actually, the strategy of deliberately destroying data-collection capacity to avoid learning inconvenient facts dates to the earliest days (February 1981) of the first Reagan administration. The first target was the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We have gone from the 1970s, when the US was acknowledged to have the best statistics-gathering in the world to a situation where, I’m told, we are close to the worst amongst developed countries.
I have long thought that the numbers produced by the Fed under the Great Greenspan — especially the inflation figures — had an amazing correlation to the neo-conservative world view of the period in which the report appeared.
It shocks me to see the Reaganauts portrayed as a “responsible” lot compared to the Bushaviks of George III. So far as I can tell, we’ve been “governed” by one long faith-based initiative, where confidence lay in Super Man and facts were kryptonite.
I agree with my correspondent that “blinding the beast” had roots in the Reagan Administration. For that matter, the Nixon Administration was hardly free of it. But my impression, and the impression of my friends who have spent more time in Washington, and in or around the bureaucracies, than I have is that the problem is much worse now than it was under Reagan, as it was much worse under Reagan than under Nixon.
Think of it this way: Nixon didn’t want to look at the facts; Reagan averted his eyes to avoid seeing the facts; Bush has had his eyelids sewn shut.