Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Census

I hadn't planned to change my blog for this week, but Tuesday's mail simply changed my mind. 

I received a letter from the Census Burea informing me that I'd get a letter next week with my official census forms.  Imagine!  A letter to tell me I'd receive a letter!  All the money the government spent in print, radio and television advertising that this is a census year wasn't enough.  Our apparently rich government with its endless resources thought I should get a letter telling me I'd be getting more mail.

I totally realize I'm not the only one who received this letter as it was sent to every known residence in the country. But it did get me to thinking about the expense of all this census business.  We're talking 15-billion or more dollars which includes these letters, the advertising, the workers, the printers, and all others working on this 15-billion dollar undertaking.

The cost of sending l'il ol' Gator Dude  a letter doesn't seem like much, but multiply that by all the residences in the country and you'd get enough money to help an awful lot of people.

The U.S. Constitution requires that a head count be made every ten years.  But that's all the Constitution requires.  The country must learn the number of citizens we have in the United States.  Somehow I don't think it should take 15 billion dollars to learn that.

However, over the years Congress and the Census Bureau have created codes that dictate other information also must or may be collected.  And fines have been included in those codes to encourage people to cooperate.  Actually, I think the permissibility of the fee structure was first included originally when a small, minute by today's standards, fine could be assessed anyone refusing to let their head be counted.

I think it was the the 1980, yes, the 1980 census that officially established that the count would be taken in a year ending in zero, although that was the informal condition before that, and most people who study such things seem to believe that was the intention of the founding fathers.

Therefore, the letter I received Tuesday says I'll be asked other information, too.  The Internet is sometimes a wonderful thing.  It only took a minute or less to find a copy of the actual census questions.  It does include some questions I know not why are necessary.  For example, along with the total number of people living there it asks for the first and last names of all the occupants of the residence.  And the telephone number 'in case there are any questions' about your form after it is returned.

The questionnaire and the letter I received this week do explain that the information they seek is needed to properly determine dispursements of money for local governments and to determine the number of Congressional Districts, thus Representatives, in the states.  The Senate is set at two each.

That district determination could be as easily made by the head count required by the Constitution.  That same count could easily be used to determine fund dispursement. 

I can't help but wonder why the rest is necessary.  It sure as old Charlie isn't worth the spending of 15-billion dollars to get.

And just think about the need for the first two questions.  The first one, which I'll concede is necessary and probably the only necessary one on the form, asks simply how many people live in the residence as of April 1, 2010.  The second one is an eyebrow raiser as it asks if anyone other than those included in the first question also lives there.  We have a super intelligent bunch in our Census Bureau.

I'm not suggesting anyone not complete the form.  There are only ten questions and will take only a few moments.  Everything on it could easily be obtained by the government in other ways if it needed the information.  And by codes and laws you are required to answer the questions.  If you don't respond in a timely manner, you can expect a personal visit by a census taker to assist you in completing the form.

Census 2010, a 15-billion dollar boondoggle.


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