Printer Friendly

Survey of current business.

FOR the 260th--but last--time, the masthead of the SURVEY OF CURRENT BUSINESS carries George Jaszi's name as director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) or its predecessor agency, the Office of Business Economics. Mr. Jaszi is retiring after more than 45 years as a civil servant. Forty-three of those years were with the Department of Commerce: first as an economist in the National Income Division of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, then as the chief of that division beginning in 1949, as an assistant director of the Office of Business Economics beginning in 1959, and finally as the director of the agency beginning in 1963. Over these years, he left an indelible mark on BEA and its work of developing and maintaining the economic accounts of the United States.

Mr. Jaszi's contributions go back to the very beginning of GNP--the cornerstone of the national income and product accounts. He was one of a team of four--the others were Edward F. Denison, the late Milton Gilbert, and Charles F. Schwartz--who roughed out a sketch of the two-sided economic accounts that were prepared during World War II to provide information needed for economic mobilization. The same team prepared the first precise formulation of the accounting system in 1947 and wrote the first detailed explanation of its conceptual framework in 1951. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Jaszi worked on the first official measures of constant-dollar GNP, which facilitated the analysis of cyclical movements of the economy and made possible the analysis of economic growth, and on the extension of the accounts to show the distribution of income by size class.

Over the last 25 years or so, Mr. Jaszi has directed the enhancement of BEA's national, regional, and international economic accounts and related tools of analysis with the goal of providing a more sharply focused and more comprehensive picture of the U.S. economy. Highlights of these efforts span the range of BEA's programs:

* The national incopme and product account estimates were provided on a more timely schedule, in more detail, and with more attention, to separating changes in value into changes in prices and changes in constant-price measures. The amount of quarterly information was vastly expanded. The full quarterly presentation in the SURVEY now consists of about 50 tables and shows not only GNP in current and constant dollars with associated measures of prices, product component detail, national income and personal income, corporate profits, and other well-known measures, but also many others such as auto and truck output, inventory stocks, gropss domestic product of corporate business, and merchandise trade by end-use commodity category. The 130 tables usually presented in the July SURVEY provide even more detail. For example, they include annual estimates of income and product by industry. Further, beginning in 1983, a quarterly "flash" estimate of major GNP aggregates was published 15 days before the end of a quarter.

* Wealth accounts were developed as an extension of the income and product accounts. They now cover all types to tangible wealth--privately owned and government-owned equipment and structures, and durable goods owned by consumers.

* The concept of the Federal budget in the framework of the economic accounts was forged; this concept significantly influenced the format in which the official budget has been presented since fiscal year 1969. More recently, the cyclically adjusted budget, an important analytical tool for measuring the impact of the Federal budget on the economy, was developed as a replacement for the high-employment budget.

* The input-output work at the Department of Commerce was started in 1962. Its hallmark is the conceptual and statistical consistency of input-output tables with the other branches of BEA's economic accounts. A number of conceptual refinements were introduced in the main stables, and adjunct tables--for example, tables showing the distribution of structures and equipment among acquiring industries--were developed.

* Regional accounts were expanded to provide, in addition to the annual income measures already available for States, quarterly measures for States and annual measures for local areas. The preparation of estimates was supplemented by projections of income, employment, and population and by regional econometric models that assess the impact of external factors on local economies.

* The U.S. balance of payments accounts were enhanced by conceptual improvements, methodological changes to keep pace with rapid changes in the international financial system, and presentation of more detail. In addition, a survey-based information system relating to multinational corporations was established.

* Pioneering estimates of pollution abatement and control expenditures were prepared. The concepts and definitions underlying these estimates were adopted by many countries.

* Forward-looking analysis that supplements BEA's work on the economic accounts was strengthened. Within the Federal Government, BEA took a leading role in developing macroeconometric models of the U.S. economy and currently circulates the results of its quarterly model to key officials. The BEA plant and equipment expenditures survey was improved in several ways, notably by the preparation of constant-dollar estimates of actual and planned expenditures. The system of leading, coincident, and lagging indicators was revamped in the mid-1970's, with special attention to the increased need to distinguish between indicators affected by inflation and those not.

Mr. Jaszi's work on BEA's economic accounts was paraleled by two activities that, while drawing upon his BEA work, also contributed to it. First, he was one of the architects of the United Nations system of national accounts, which is used both for international reporting and as an aid to countries in setting up economic accounts. As one of a group of experts convened by the League of Nations, he worked on the first set of international guidelines for the construction of economic accounts. Subsequently, under the auspices of the United Nations, he participated in drafting a more comprehensive system of economic accounts and in preparing two revisions of the system--one in the 1960's and one ongoing with a 1990 target date for implementation--to adapt it to changes in economic structure, statistical capabilities, and policy-oriented applications. Second, throughout most of his career he taught university courses on a part-time basis. He introduced students at American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University, among others, to economic accounting, and sought to recruit his best students for BEA.

Mr. Jaszi's influence on BEA is not, however, fully reflected in a list of substantive enhancements of its output. His influence is less tangible, but not less real, in other ways--for example, in how people outside BEA view it and its work and how the organization functions. Outsiders, from government policymakers to business economists, respect BEA's professionalism and integrity. Mr. Jaszi's own professionalism has been widely recognized. Fellow economic accountants elected him to the chair of the Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, their professional organization in the United States, and the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth. The honors he has received over the years include a Rockefeller Public Service Award, in 1974, and a Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank award, the highest Federal Government award that can be earned by career civil, servants, in 1980. He has viewed the excellence of BEA's work as the shield behind which politically sensitive statistics, such as GNP and the leading indicators, can be prepared without partisan interference. Further, he has viewed the provision of direct policy advice as the sure way to invite such interference. Accordingly, he has pursued the former and has scrupulously avoided the latter, and has insisted that BEA staff do the same.

A passage from Confucius, which is visible in its frame in the picture of Mr. Jaszi standing behind his desk at BEA, is a favorite of his: "If concepts are not clear, words do not fit; if words do not fit, the day's work cannot be accomplished." Two of the trademarks of his directorship can be seen as the tools he used to pursue the clarification of concepts. First, he questioned--definitions, classifications, methodological assumptions, thoroughness of research; little escaped. His questioning, and his staff's preparation for his questioning, improved the quality of BEA's work and, at least as importantly, set the tone for the open, intellectual environment at BEA. He also respected others' questioning; he insisted that BEA's estimates and methodologies be accessible so that others could question and that BEA staff be responsive to questions put to them. Second, he insisted on precise writing. Word choice, punctuation, and sentence and paragraph structure--for internal memos as well as for BEA publications--were all matters of concern. His name on the SURVEY'S masthead has not represented merely organizational hierarchy; he actively reviewed SURVEY articles in pursuit of cogency and precision. For the future, it will be a worthy goal for the SURVEY, and for BEA, to maintain the standards he set.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Government Printing Office
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:George Jaszi's retirement
Author:Carson, Carol S.
Publication:Survey of Current Business
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Previous Article:The total incomes system of accounts.
Next Article:The business situation.

Related Articles
A twentieth-century prophet; Oszkar Jaszi, 1875-1957.
The February review.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters