Is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Now the Most Important Agency in the U.S. Government?
Its sponsors in the current Administration and Congress have promised that the recently passed Federal tax legislation (Tax Cut and Jobs Act) will significantly improve employment and job growth in the U.S. Tax relief provided to wealthy individuals and corporations, it is claimed, will generate a significant number of new jobs. It is also hoped that benefits to wages and employment will outweigh the costs of increased health insurance stimulated by the new law.
We are fortunate to have a Federal agency that may already be well-suited to track the performance of this legislation in terms of its impacts on employment: the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The situation we have is an ideal setting for tracking what actually happens to employment as a result of the anticipated tax cuts:
- The timing of the tax cuts is known.
- Mechanisms may already be in place for gathering some or all of the required statistics.
- The BLS is accustomed to reporting its findings to the public.
- The BLS has a tradition of statistical rigor and political independence.
I suggest as a possible model the efforts put in place to track and report the events surrounding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). That effort was not without its challenges but experience with that particular tracking effort may help shape what we need to do now in order to track the impacts of tax decreases on employment.
There are several interesting questions data scientists at BLS might be considering now as they contemplate ongoing and new data collection and reporting efforts:
- Can current data collection and reporting processes be adapted or modified to show the impacts of tax reductions on hiring?
- Should any relevant data that are currently being collected but not yet publicly reported be made more accessible to the public so that additional independent analysis efforts can be pursued?
- If job losses occur in relation to the coming tax changes, how will these job losses be reported?
- Some pundits predict significant increases in health insurance costs due to the repeal of Obamacare implicit in the tax bill. What impact on employment will such increases have on the poor and elderly (e.g., delaying retirement in order to be able to afford increased Medicare and healthcare insurance premiums)?
Copyright (c) 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald