Friday, April 9, 2010

Have You Been Reminded Enough Yet?

First I got the notice that the census was coming. Then I got the reminder that the census was coming. Then I got the census. Then I got the reminder to fill out the census. Then I got the reminder of the reminder. Finally (I hope) on Saturday, I got the notice that there are still job opportunities available working for the completion of the census.

I'm sure each state also had its multiple versions of the ad I've pictured from California. I don't know about other states, but California's ads were reproduced in seven different languages, but mostly English and Spanish. Few of them said "don't forget to count all those illegals in your household, we need the votes." By being ultra-careful to count the illegals, California hopes not to lose any Congressional seats resulting from the flight of taxpaying citizens to other states who have fled in droves to get out of the state with increasing crime rates and huge deficits.

The idea of a census goes back a long way. You can probably finger Moses for sticking us with this decennial count. The Book of Numbers isn't called that by accident. Moses was told by God "Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the houses of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls." In order to decide where his subjects lived and what they were worth, Augustus Caesar ordered a tax ("tax" = "count" = "census"). The Jews insisted on being counted as they had counted themselves, so each family returned to its ancestral home and tribe to be counted, causing a monumental shift in populations throughout Rome's newly-acquired territories in the Holy Land. We recently celebrated the resurrection of the most famous of those displaced persons.

It seems that the federal government has spent about $14 billion dollars on the current census. That's more than twice what was spent on the 2000 census (the Constitution mandates a census every ten years). That's about $13.9 billion more than the Founders could conceive of, and about eight questions (out of ten) more than the Constitution required.

There is much at stake in this census. For one thing, the government hopes to have a really good count of the racial and ethnic groups that should be irrelevant to a simple count of the people. Barack Obama himself is alleged to have declared himself African-American, though he is half-white. Are you starting to get the picture? In the big cities where criminals evade justice and illegals hide from the authorities, this administration has fought to replace actual counting with statistical "sampling."

The distribution of at least $400 billion in federal funds for schools, hospitals, bridges, and other services will largely be determined based on the counts. Democrats are particularly concerned with grabbing those funds. Governor David Paterson has estimated that New York City alone may have lost as much as $850 million dollars because of alleged "undercounting" since the previous census. A mere 857 heads cost North Carolina a seat in the House from the 2000 census.

Although the 2000 census made great strides in counting those who were regularly missed in prior censuses, this time the bar has been lowered. The count in 2000 successfully reached 67% of households in the first mail-in round. It is estimated that only 64% will respond this time, leaving a substantial number to be counted by the followup census-takers. That may not sound like a big difference, but each percentage point drop is expected to cost an additional $85 million. And in need of showing increased job numbers, the Obama administration is likely to increase that cost exponentially by hiring multiple redundant census-takers. All of this is occurring after the Obama-guided Census Bureau has already spent $300 million on "outreach and marketing."

Private research groups estimate that the actual number of mail-in forms during the first round are less than that estimated by the Bureau. Many are predicting between 61% and 62%. And it isn't just us right-wing nutcases who have a problem with the census. Many poor, uneducated, and government-hostile types at both ends of the political spectrum are conflicted over this census. Many have taken a "leave me and my family alone" attitude. Sources around the capital, including Pew Research Center for the People and the Press say that even at this late stage, nearly one in five residents has still not decided whether or not to participate voluntarily with the census, including a substantial number who have said they are unlikely to or definitely will not partcipate.

Considering this a disaster for all Americans, Roderick J. Harrison, former chief of the US Census Bureau's Racial Statistics Branch has concluded, like Pew, more than half of those polled are too busy, not interested, or don't know what the census is. For a smaller minority, there is a serious concern over personal privacy, safety, and governmental intrusion. Census experts are particularly concerned with this latter group.

Republican Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, has been a leading voice in the growing anti-census movement. She told the Washington Times that her family will protest the count, leaving most of its form blank except for the question that asks directly how many people reside in her home. "We won't be answering any information beyond that. The remaining nine questions are very intricate, very personal, and the Constitution doesn't mandate any other information beyond those we will be answering." That's a strong political statement and a brave moral one, but the Constitution doesn't forbid answering those questions either.

The ante on refusing to answer census questions has been raised substantially this year. In fact, the maximum penalty is $5,000. But unless someone actually makes some sort of public declaration of refusal, it's hard to prove that he didn't merely miss the form, or forgot to mail it in. And census-takers can't break down doors of those who are on the list of not having mailed in the form. But the Bureau has soft-pedaled the possible fine in fear of scaring off even more people who are already reluctant to comply.

Activists on the left have also entered the fray. Though 71 percent of Democrats and 56% of Republicans say the census is "very important," groups like The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders representing 22,000 pastors in 34 states is calling on millions of illegal immigrants and their sympathizers to boycott the census to protest government inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. Illegal immigrants themselves fear the census will be used against them, even though the census asks nothing about legal status. Says Reverend Miguel Rivera, head of the Coalition: "They [the Census Bureau] are liars. They have been lying for years. People in our churches are being hunted like animals. Undocumented immigrants (illegals) should not take more chances."

Although that may sound paranoid, there is a small grain of truth to it. The Census Bureau has in the past turned over confidential information to the Department of Homeland Security, most recently the location of prominent Arab populations. Allegedly, Homeland Security gathered the information only to determine which languages to use on signs at international airports.

Would sampling have allayed Rivera's objections? Maybe yes, maybe no. Statisticians continue to argue how accurate any number can be which is really nothing more than an intelligent guess. Because illegal immigrants are future Democrat voters, the Democratic Party favors the use of sampling. That would allow the Bureau to use that small percentage of cooperating urban groups to answer the questions and then statisticians could make estimates from there. This method is favored among those who believe that undercounting has resulted in unfair maldistribution of votes and federal funds to ghetto and barrio areas. However, the whole argument is probably moot, since the US Supreme Court declared in 1999 that "sampling" violates the Constitution's mandate of "an actual enumeration" (Dept. of Commerce v US House of Representatives).

The Bureau can't win for losing. In the 2000 census, more than 50,000 African-Americans wrote in "Negro" for the question about race. Thinking that this was a popular thing, the 2010 census incudes "Negro" as a classification. Black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, already perpetually-outraged, were furious. "Racist" and "outdated" were among the nicer epithets tossed around.

The ever-increasing cost of this census is becoming an issue in and of itself. Employment numbers were enhanced by the large number of census workers hired at the early stages, and last fall an additional 150.000 temporary workers were added to the rolls. At $88 additional million, the "better than ever" census is already 25% over budget. The expenditures for the now-defunct ACORN brought cries of foul nationwide. A recent audit by the Commerce Department inspector-general Todd Zinser shows that $3 million alone has been spent on temporary workers who never showed up for work and reimbursing them for millions of miles they never drove.

Perhaps in 2020, the Census Bureau will simply go back to asking "how many people are there in your household?" then mail the forms to known addresses, and do diligent followup on forms not returned. After that, tough. If you don't want to answer that question, for whatever reason, don't expect to have your proportional representation in the House of Representatives. And then again, wombats might write sonnets, but I'm not holding my breath for that either.


HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I'm one of those who objects to the extraneous questions about race. I see that as a divider, not a unifier. It's also a pretty good indication of where the Democrats intend to send our taxes if they survive the next two elections. Still, they'll probably get the information somehow and somewhere, so I'm going to answer them, even though it rankles me.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: That's a sensible approach. But I'm not advising anybody about how to answer their own forms. I do think in terms of my grandkids. All three of my children are easily classified as "white" or "caucasian." But I have six grandkids of mixed blood, but not African-European mixed blood, so they'll fall into the Hispanic/Latino breakdown. Two others will fall into the White/Caucasian category. But they're all my grandkids and we're all Americans, and I love them all. This series of questions simply doesn't belong on the census, and the agonizing over "what you are" is damned destructive. Of course, none of this matters to the post-racial president who is half-white, half-black, but declared himself black. We just stepped backwards forty years, folks.

AndrewPrice said...

What census?

Just kidding.

This thing is such a ridiculous game. The left has been saying for years that they are "underrepresented," because the numbers never come out the way they want them to. That's why they want to substitute statistical chicanery for actual counting.

BevfromNYC said...

Hey, LawHawk, I got a job offer today in the mail too! Should I take it? Will I get a cushy pension?

On top of all the mailings before, during and after April 1, I got a robocall from my state assemblyperson!

How many of us waited until after April 1, (the official Census day)to answer?

Writer X said...

I only answered the first question on the Census and mailed it in. What a colossal waste of taxpayer time, money, and energy. I'm surprised they didn't send everyone an abacus with the stupid form.

Unknown said...

Andrew: It's that insidious, and more. Remember that there are minorities, and there are "underrepresented" minorities. Jews and Asians--pffft. Democrats want to make sure to count (or manipulate the count) of the correct underrepresented minorities.

Unknown said...

Bev: I was thinking of joining the rolls of the census-takers myself. We could do some half-baked counting, submit a few jury-rigged expense vouchers, then retire for life on a full pension for federal workers. We'd get free health care and a lifetime of Obama bucks, and it won't cost anybody anything. Lord, how I love the paradise that Obama is creating.

Unknown said...

WriterX: Now you've done it. That will be $5,000 times eight violations, so kindly send the gummint a check for $40,000 and turn yourself in for racial-sensitivity training and re-registration as a Democrat. LOL

Let us know if you get a visitation from one of the Obamabots asking why you didn't fill out the form correctly.

WriterX said...

LawHawk, I fully expect a visit. Let them try. If you hear about a Phoenix writer hauled away in handcuffs, that would be me.

Unknown said...

WriterX: We would be delighted to represent you at trial, wouldn't you Andrew?

Tam said...

Since they referred to the members of the house as Persons 1-10, those are the names I used in my form. First name Person, last names 1, 2, and 3. Our "race" is American. I didn't provide a phone number, so I also anticipate a follow up visit. They won't get past my door if they try.

LoneWolfArcher said...

I haven't done it. And the commercials that say "fill it out so your city can get their share of funding" does nothing for me. I don't care if they get funding. The federal government shouldn't be taxing me and funneling to local government anyway. That is unconstitutional.

Unknown said...

Tam: As with WriterX, I commend your for your answers. I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be followup, but no repercussions. They're starting to get the message that we're not pleased with them, and they're walking into a hornet's nest.

Unknown said...

LoneWolfArcher: I hope that's not a census worker you have there. LOL

Those commercials you're referencing keep showing up here, too. I'm ready to start throwing things over the "fill out the census so we can be sure to get free goodies for you" crap. No appeals to patriotism. No appeals to unity. No appeals to good citizenship. Just appeals to the "gimmme the freebies" that got us into this socialist mess in the first place.

StanH said...

We just filled out names and how many people in the house, and a visit from a government droog with bear nothing more.

Sherman used the 1860 census in his march to the sea in Georgia, to know who was in the area and to be sure that he missed no one. So it’s not beyond the federal to be extra constitutional in an “emergency.”.

Unknown said...

StanH: The additional questions are probably constitutional as part of the federal government's broad information-gathering power. The Constitution merely provides the minimum requirements, but is silent about whether the feds can use the convenience to ask other questions. My objection is based far more on my personal and political contempt for the racially-divisive questions than on the constitutionality of the questions themselves.

CrisD said...

LawHawk- when the nuns asked us to raise our hands "if you were irish" -I did, "italion" -I did, -"cuban" I did, and then-- "Lebanese" (there was one lebonese little girl), I did again!
and finally the nun turned to me and said "Christine! HOW are YOU Lebonese??" and I said, "Sister, my Father told me I was a little bit of everything"

Unknown said...

CrisD: I like that. It's an attitude we need more of.

BevfromNYC said...

So Great Minds of Commentarama (GMC), shouldn't those people who sent in their census forms before April 1 be subject to fines for perpetrating a fraud?

Unknown said...

Bev: There are those who say that everything I do is a fraud. I should have mailed it on April 1, since eight of the ten questions are a bad joke anyway.

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