Of Technocrats and Ideologues in Economic Data/Analysis Dissemination

I’ve gotten jaded by getting regular emails alerting me to the fact a new Wisconsin Economic Outlook Forecast or Monthly Economic Update (the latest just out, here). In addition, DoR has substantially expanded its interactive data visualizations here. But after a little thought, I really have to say it’s been a sea change in openness since Governor Walker exited.

The current approach to economic data dissemination stands in stark contrast with that of the previous administration. Econbrowser readers will recall in June 2016, in response to my query to the WI Department of Revenue about the quarterly Wisconsin Economic Outlook, I received this very polite response:

[T]he report was becoming more irregular, and we have discontinued issuing the Outlook based upon the resources that were involved in producing it. We may still issue special reports from time to time, so please feel free to check our website in the future.

I fruitlessly checked for four years. So just like the Brownback regime, which ceased publishing the reports of the Kansas Council of Advisors when the data did not cooperate, the Walker regime stopped releasing reports when Wisconsin embarrassingly lagged the 250,000 new private jobs by January 2015 promise that then Governor Walker had just recommitted to in August 2013.

Figure 1: Wisconsin private nonfarm payroll employment, 000’s s.a. (red), +250K by January 2015 (light gray), +250K by January 2015 trend (dark gray). Source: BLS, DWD, author’s calculations. Originally from September 2018 post.

The new outlook forecasts were again released four years after that very polite reply. That first release (May 2020) is here. The new administration also provided reports on the evolution of activity in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (latest here).

Here’s the two latest pictures of GDP and employment, relative to the May Outlook (released in June):

Figure 2: Wisconsin GDP from June 30 release (blue), forecast from May Economic Outlook forecast (sky blue squares), and forecast based on first difference of contemporaneous US GDP, lagged WI GDP (see discussion), and 6/30 GDPNow nowcast. Source: BEA, and Wisconsin Economic Outlook (May), and author’s calculations.

Figure 2: Wisconsin employment (blue), forecast from May Economic Outlook forecast (sky blue squares). Source: BLS, and Wisconsin Economic Outlook (May), and author’s calculations.

To paraphrase, when the ideologues get in, they say: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the statisticians/economists/data wonks”.





12 thoughts on “Of Technocrats and Ideologues in Economic Data/Analysis Dissemination

  1. Moses Herzog

    You should demarcate on the graph when Republican governors were in office in KS and WI, and when the economic/revenues data stopped being published. You could do a lite blue background for Democrat Governor terms and a lite red or pink for Republican Governor terms. With blanks for non-published and dark blue/ dark red colored dots for the release date of published data.

  2. Macroduck

    Off topic, energy technology –

    Some researchers at U. Amherst were working on technology aimed at monitoring humidity using nanotubes. Somebody forgot to plug it in, but it produced a signal anyway. (It’s alive!!!) Turns out, water molecules knocking around inside the tubes generate an electrical charge.

    So now, there’s a new technology which uses humidity to generate electicity


    Of course, SOMEBODY will warn us that humidity is intermittent, is only useful for electricity, needs batteries, whereas fossil fuel use is obviously not responsible for the highest average global temperature on record:


    1. CoRev

      Living in your head still! The Guardian is source? BTW, why did you ignore this part of your article? “On Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s weather body, confirmed El Niño had returned. Experts predicted that, combined with the increased heat from anthropogenic global heating, it would lead to more record-breaking temperatures.”

      You also ignored this explanation of the claim: ” It uses data from the NCEP’s climate forecast system to provide a time series of daily mean two-metre air temperature, based on readings from surface, air balloon and satellite observations.” Using a forecast model’s date and then citing one of the acutl measurements is the level of science in which you folks believe. Here’s the actual satellite measurements for June, 2023: https://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_June_2023_v6_20x9-550×248.jpg With this description: The Version 6 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for June 2023 was +0.38 deg. C departure from the 1991-2020 mean. This is statistically unchanged from the May 2023 anomaly of +0.37 deg. C.

      The forecast model does NOT match reality.

      The unrealistic liberal mind is an amazement.

      1. pgl

        None of your latest long winded ranting and raving has a damn thing with what MD noted. Look dude – learn to stick on topic, make an honest point for a change, or start your own lying blog that the rest of us can ignore.

        BTW – your Aussie friend never heard of the commodity boom that started a generation ago. Have you? If you have – then you know your Aussie friend lied about the role of wind for rising energy prices. But I guess that is why you cite his dishonest blog.

      2. Ithaqua

        Reading comprehension not so good today? Every forecast system relies on a lot of… *actual data*… to estimate its model and generate forecasts. Pulling the data from such a system is convenient because a) it’s all in one place, b) the data’s been converted from whatever the source systems use for things like date formatting to standardized ways of representing things like, well, dates, and c) the data has been cleaned (if necessary), e.g., a sensor that registered -272 degrees C will likely have had that observation removed or imputed. So, liberal or conservative alike, you’d be smart to pull your data from a forecast system rather than going through the hundreds of hours (or more) of redundant work of identifying all the source systems, understanding the nuances of their data, pulling it, etc.

        You seem to have confused the words “data” and “forecast”; try not to do that again would be my advice.

    2. Moses Herzog

      Both my Lithium Ryobi mower and Lithium Ryobi weed wacker still working like a charm. My heart sank the other day when I was cutting through some thick grass (had to wait through some days of rain and waiting for the ground to dry) and the mower gave up on me. I freaked out for half a day wondering if the battery had over-heated and turned itself off and if it would work the next day. So right before I took the mower back out the following day I decided to check if the blades were being obstructed. Turned out a mixture of dirt and grass had build up in a thick coat on the upper part just above the blades. Dumdum (that’s me) scraped all the dirt and mud out, and it started up and cut again like a charm.

      I do think that gasoline mowers are still very very slightly more powerful than Lithium mowers. But the difference is so negligible it shouldn’t make a difference in whether a person wants to buy Lithium or not. I re-charge them inside the house (not the garage) because the garage is always 20 degrees warmer in the summer time, and I am very sensitive to the overheating of the Lithium causing a fire.

  3. pgl

    How does this make Pence any different than other Republicans such as Romney?


    “I’m somebody that, I don’t really buy into the rich need to pay their fair share,” Pence told a crowd in comments that were recorded and posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

    Republicans main theme for 40 years is tax the little guy – not the fat cats who fund Republicans.

  4. Macroduck

    More off topic stuff, more bad news from Germany –

    “In May, real incoming orders, i.e. adjusted for price increases, fell by ten percent compared to the same month last year, the Association of German Mechanical and Plant Engineering (VDMA) announced today.”

    Back orders are in good shape, but an increasing number of firms are reporting a slowdown.


    1. Moses Herzog

      Personally, just to throw out some firecrackers at the feet of China’s government, I would have gone with the local headline in Chinese newspapers “Wang Yi Decides to Make Love With Japanese Money and Fetishistically Fondle Higher Quality Japanese Products and Autos” and then wait two days for the nation-wide protests to start. Giggling the entire time.

  5. James

    Menzie – personal anecdotes of trying to get Communications?PR jobs at DNR, Ag/Trade, Legislative Assembly (supposedly a non-partisan position), and other state agencies during the Walker years – I would score 90-100% on the written essay exams (yes – back then you had to submit a written essay along with resume), do good enough on the phone screening to get called in for in-person interviews and do what I thought were fairly positive in-person panel interviews (you are one of top 3/4 candidates at that point) (BTW- I have MS degree/15+ years experience at doing PR/Communications for non-profits, state agencies, and private sector) – and then not get the job. Looking at it objectively as possible (maybe direct supervisor just did not care for me?) – I think two factors worked against me – when asked about climate change – I would emphasize we needed to follow the science – and CC was already impacting the state in various ways. Also – did they look me up on the Walker recall petition? Supposedly they shouldn’t do that – but as a WIGOPer do you want a PR person for a non-partisan state agency signing a petition to have your boss recalled?
    Also – to the point of your posting – during the Leg. Assembly interview – I talked about how we should emphasize the role of responsible governance and how we are working for everyone in Wisconsin and seek compromise to move legislation forward (this was about a year before Walker lost to Evers) – being transparent in your communications is a winning message. LOL. I could tell by the stony-faced looks from the panel that I shouldn’t bother calling them – and just wait the three weeks for the formal “another candidate was chosen” email.
    Thanks Menzie – I believe you are providing an excellent resource for the people of Wisconsin – it must be part of that Wisconsin Idea I’ve heard about.

  6. Ivan

    Data is the key to reality. When you try to hide the data, you try to hide reality. But when you hide reality you reduce your ability to change it in the right direction. Sure he may himself have been fully informed of how bad his idiotic policies were hurting the state. However, all those critics who could have helped pointing out what was wrong had much less of an ability to tell him why and what needed to be changed.

    It is the same fundamental problem for all paranoid authoritarians. Reality will be hidden or padded so they never know what needs to be changed/improved to reach a better outcome. As Putin so clearly demonstrate to us these days, if you don’t know what is wrong you are not going to fix it.

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