Bush’s Planned Shutdown of Econ Info Site Sparks Outrage

With a reported economic recession on the horizon, the Bush Administration garnered harsh criticism from bloggers and business professionals this week regarding a decision to shut down an award-winning government Web site that compiles economic information.EconomicIndicators.gov, a one-source stop for economic information from various government agencies, announced a few weeks ago that the site would be shutting down on March 1 due to “budgetary constraints.”

The move sparked harsh reactions from labor experts and economists alike, who pointed out that the site — a recipient of a Forbes “Best of the Web” award — was the only place to go for free aggregated economic data. Discontinuing the site would make it very difficult for media representatives and other groups to monitor the economy.

ThinkProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund that has been following that controversy from the beginning, alleged that the Bush Administration was terminating the site to hide facts that could point to an economic recession.

Word spread fast across the Internet about the site’s sacking, spawning an article from mega tech site ComputerWorld.com speculating about the timing of the shutdown.

The news also motivated Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, to write a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, who oversees EconomicIndicators.gov, to keep the page open free of charge:

I find it hard to believe that shutting down this important information portal will result in any significant savings to the Department. Since the fixed costs of website creation have been paid, the operational costs of maintaining such a site must be relatively small.

In response to the hubbub, the administration relented earlier this week, deciding to keep the site open for business. According to a message on EconomicIndicators.gov, a new feature on the site “will email an abstract and link so that users can access the full release on the source website.”

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.