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.

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