Mar 21

The irony should be lost on no one:  While the country waits to see exactly how brazenly its Congress can behave with regards to health care, the government waits to see how compliant the citizenry will be in revealing various statistics via its once-every-ten-year census.   A massive advertising campaign, kicking off during the Super Bowl no less at $2.5 million dollars for a 30-second spot, implores people to participate:

“The census helps us know exactly what we need, so everyone can get their fair share of funding.”

– 2010 Census TV Ad

A river runs through it? Nope.

I don’t recall reading in the Constitution about the government needing to know what we need.  I do recall reading that a census must be taken to ensure the proper distribution of congressional members.   However, even that has gone beyond the ridiculous, with state-sponsored gerrymandering that produces districts with geographical footprints that look like some kind of meandering wetlands mapping.

Let’s back up a bit.    The official census website says that some $400 billion (with a ‘b’) will be controlled each year based on the outcome of the census.    All of the items listed as spending examples are either not Constitutionally sanctioned, have a history of massive cost overruns and underperformance, or both.  Indeed, the entire premise of knowing “what we need” is an impossibility.   But impossibility has never deterred our determined legislators.   Like nationalized health care, this is less about what we need than it is about what Congress insists that we have, and insists that it have for itself, namely, impressive sounding statistics on which to justify an ever-increasing government and corresponding money grab.

Then there’s the issue of “fair share”.   Fairness according to who?  Nancy Pelosi?  Harry Reid?  John Boehner or Mitch McConnell?   “Fairness” via government is all about a political process, and as we’re witnessing now with health care, when government is determined to institute “fairness”, there’s absolutely no telling to what lengths they’ll go.     If there was ever any governmental admission concerning the existence a public feeding trough, the exhortations behind the census would be it. Where is the fairness in the economic harm brought about by endlessly pouring the slop into this trough, and in fact, continuing to make the trough larger and larger?

If the census merely possessed financial repugnance, that would be one thing.   Unfortunately, its far more pernicious quality is its explicit perpetuation of racial divisiveness.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Chief Justice John Roberts

Pick a box, or two, or three...

American has historically been the country to which people flocked when they were fleeing balkanization.   Now instead, we have the government itself promoting it.   There is simply no justification for requiring people to squeeze themselves into a racial checkbox, other than the ultimate threat of “men with guns” showing up at your door if you don’t.   Nearly any person who has ever formally applied for a job has encountered phrases like “Equal opportunity employer”, or “does not discriminate based on race, religion, color, creed, gender…., etc.”     Certainly every government job application contains such language.   So how can that be logically juxtaposed with federal statistics categorizing the population by race or origin, with the implicit statement that such statistics will factor into public policy decision making?  They can’t.

Nonetheless, having such statistics makes great fodder for those that would go on discrimination witch hunts and the like.   Similarly, they can be the basis for all sorts of perverse race-based allocations of governmental largesse that would otherwise be impossible.    Our public policy debates, particularly those involving huge sums of money, are already contentious and detrimental enough to civil society.  Has bringing race into such debates ever made such debates easier and/or less contentious?

We can talk all we want in this country about being “race-blind” and moving away from the horrible discriminations of the past.  It is certainly the correct variety of talk to have.  But as the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”, and the actions demonstrated on the census would indicate that government policy has no interest in being race-blind.    Is America really the great “melting pot”, or are we determined to stay frozen in a world where skin color and birth country mean more than a united citizenry?    At what point in our country’s history will we unify and rally around the label ‘American’?

Until that time comes, repulsion is the only reasonable response to the self-segregating political exercise that is our national census.

10 Responses to “Why The Census Should Repulse You”

  1. Bill says:

    Discussion and question is all good……to take the census and to obtain relevant and meaningful demographic detail is helpful to our government and should be totally supported. but, really, inquiring as to whether or not the home is owned free and clear, etc., is, to me, way beyond the scope and intention, beyond both the spirit and letter of to census requirement, and it should not be part of the form. First, I don’t see what information it really adds for the purpose of the census; second, the existence of home debt is but one factor in determining whatever it is the question was posed for the purpose, if it’s relevant, there need to be more inquiry into financial status, but mostly, it’s not relevant for the purpose of the census.

    I thunk we ought to work toward drafting better regulations for the census, so that we, as americans, can continue to feel free, unintruded, and supported by our goverment.

  2. Tad Kapoor says:

    I dispise the phishing emails they appear to get more desperate by the day I get two or three everyday and submit them to phishtrackers a site I recently found that allows you to report them anonymously.

  3. erik says:

    JB is spot on. The Constitution gives Congress the right to enumerate the census as needed. Under the necessary and proper clause along with Article 1, the Census can collect demographic information in order to enable Congress to exercise its delegated powers to govern the population intelligently. Federal Courts have upheld the Census questionaire several times. See: Morales v. Daley, McCullough v. Maryland, US v. Morariaty.

    The Census may repulse you, but it is very legal in its current form.

  4. Gary Marksbury says:

    Hi there, I just finished reading some of your posts and found you to be quite informative. Thanks.

  5. Jeanne says:

    I agree with this author but for different reasons. What I think is that we need to take a count of all the illegal aliens in this country. I mean, we who are born here have records of our births and if we die here, there are records of our deaths, right? The government has this information. Why don’t they just count up all the births in America in the last 10 years and all the recorded deaths and do a little math? Then, go out and knock on doors and count and speak to all of the illegals. I think the number would be staggering. Also, it would let us know just about how many people Obama, Pelosi, Reid and others are going to make “legal” and give health insurance to. Oh, I almost forgot, they don’t have to be legal to receive health insurance–my bad!!

  6. Nicholas says:

    This at a time when Americans and the world rush pell mell to publish all kinds of personal information on social networking sights impervious to the trolling being done by those with ulterior motives to discover and exploit all kinds of personal data that can be used to steal the identities of those foolish enough to leave themselves open to this kind of theft. Having had my identity impersonated twice, I refuse to be a part of sharing sensitive personal data with strangers, although I am aware that our government has many ways of intruding into our affairs in unauthorized ways.

  7. John says:

    Your essay seems to overlook the question that I found more intrusive and far beyond the scope of what the census should be asking is question 3.

    This questions asks “Is this house, apartment, or mobile home –

    * Owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan?
    * Owned by you or someone in this household free and clear? (without a mortagage or loan?
    * rented?
    * Occupied without payment or rent?

    I refuse to answer this question and so noted on my form, adding the note that there was no answer given because it was beyond the scope of the census.

    While I agree with your comments about why the questions of race should be omitted at this time in our nation’s history, I am puzzled why you did not pick up on the inclusion of question 3, that I repeated for your readers?

    • Administrator says:

      Wow, great catch! A pure oversight on my part… I have no other excuse. But I’d add that it furthers my overall point. I mean, what can come of this data, other than the potential for some other misguided and ultimately harmful government program, to say nothing of the invasion-of-privacy issues involved? It kind of makes one wonder, if I can miss such a thing in a short document, what types of things can be missed in a 2700-page piece of legislation?

  8. JB says:

    I agree with the point that “The Census Should Repulse You.” Its race based questions are perpetuating racial divisions. Regarding the Issue of the constitutionality of the Census asking all of these questions you had better check your facts.

    Marty’s point matches that of Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn), who claims the Constitution only requires you to answer how many people are in your household.

    But that argument is clearly rebutted here at PolitiFact: http://is.gd/aT2Ad
    which writes:

    “Here’s what the Constitution actually says:

    “Representation and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers … the actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”

    So the Constitution itself does not contain any requirement, as Bachmann claims.

    We draw your attention to the last clause, “in such a manner as they shall by law direct.” The “they” in that sentence refers to members of Congress. They write laws about the content of the Census and require that people answer the questions.

    Even the very first census in 1790 included more than just the question of how many people lived in the household. According to a Census Bureau spokeswoman, the 1790 Census specifically asked about the number of free white males age 16 and over in order to assess the country’s military and industrial potential. That first Census also asked for the race and gender of household residents, and whether they were free or enslaved.

    Subsequent Census Acts expanded the number of questions exponentially.

    According to Census spokeswoman Stacy Gimbel, these laws came under the authority of the “Necessary and Proper” clause of the Constitution:

    “The Congress shall have the power . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

    Congress’ use of the Census to ask questions well beyond just the number of people has been upheld several times by the Supreme Court, Gimbel said, citing several cases.

    What’s more, a law passed by Congress requires people to answer “any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any Census” from the U.S. Census.

    So what if you don’t?

    The law says those who refuse to fill out the entirety of their Census questionnaire or answer questions posed by Census takers could face fines of anywhere from $100 to $500. Honestly, Gimbel said, the U.S. Census doesn’t often enforce those rules.”

  9. Marty says:

    Every 10 years on my census form, I fill out how many individuals live at the residence — and nothing else — thus respecting our constitution but refusing to engage in the unconstitutional charade that you point out. Of course, they try to come and get the information in person, and I point out that I have already given the constitutionally justified information and hand them a pocket copy of the constitution. I’ve got my supply ready for this year…

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