As you may be aware, one year and one month ago the U.S. government halted publication of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. This publication — which was available free of charge on the Internet via the U.S. Census Bureau — brought together thousands and thousands of pieces of information from across the federal government, putting hundreds and hundreds of standardized tables on a dizzying array of subjects into one place so that any American could keep track of what was going on in their country.
In 2011, the Democratic Obama administration and the Republican-controlled House worked together to end free publication of the Statistical Abstract. Since October 1 2011, new data describing statistical trends in the United States are no longer being brought together in one place for people to freely and easily find.
In its place, at the end of November 2012, a new Statistical Abstract of the United States will be provided by the for-profit business ProQuest. If you want to peruse your own government’s statistics, you’ll have to pay over $150 for a hardcover book, far more than the government charged for its print version.
And what if you want to search the new Statistical Abstract of the United States online? If you’re just a person, unaffiliated with any corporation or other institution, then you can’t. That’s right, you just plain can’t. I called up ProQuest today and spoke with two operators, trying to get a price quote for online access to the new ProQuest Statistical Abstract. ProQuest representatives told me that individual people won’t be allowed to purchase access. Only corporations and other institutions paying many thousands of dollars will gain access.
If you are affiliated with a big institution that has lots of money, then gaining access to government information will be no problem for you. Otherwise, if you’re a person who doesn’t belong to an institution with a lot of money, you’re going to be in the dark.