Count on a nosy government

Since 1790, every 10 years the federal government has come around to count every American in an effort to determine proportional representation. This is dictated by Article I, Section 2 of our Constitution and it’s one of the rare instances the Constitution has been rigidly followed throughout our 230-plus year history.

In March, most households will receive a fairly short form intended to provide the information the government needs to determine these Congressional districts. (Others get a longer form which asks a number of questions about living situation, income, and other personal items.) In either case, though, respondents are asked about much more than the number of people living in their dwelling.

Consider the 10-question short form most Americans will receive. While Question 1 seeks the essential information about how many occupy the subject’s residence, other questions on the short form ask about home ownership, gender, and race.

More importantly, the government database being created also has name, age, date of birth, and telephone number. While the Census Bureau vows that the information collected will be kept secure, one has to wonder just how private this information will remain in an age of hackers and identity theft. Remember, none of this information is truly necessary to achieve the mandated purpose of determining population numbers for proportional representation.

In truth, the Census facts and figures have grown to meet purposes far beyond the intentions of the Founding Fathers, just as the size and scope of the government they created has. According to the Census Bureau, the status of living arrangements is asked because the answers are, “used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions.” Similarly, the age and date of birth are used for, “forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare services,” and the gender question is asked because, “many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing, and evaluating their programs.”

But even the obvious reason for the decennial count has fallen prey to overt discrimination on the part of bureaucrats in Washington, for it’s not Question 1 which determines the proper number of representatives to Congress per state, but Question 9.

And what is Question 9? It asks the race of each person in the household, yet,”state governments use the data to determine congressional, state, and local voting districts.” So much for the colorblind society those in power claim they wish to create. Instead, these numbers are used to create monolithic voting districts which forever doom minorities to second-class status.

The Census Bureau website claims that the count is necessary because, “(e)ach question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country.” Their radio spots talk about the need to respond because otherwise we’d not know if a school grew enough for new classrooms or if a town needed a traffic signal. They conveniently forget, though, that there’s other less intrusive measures to come up with the appropriate figures. As always, it becomes a question of following the money.

It’s been said many times in several variants that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” We see the results of pitting groups against one another – a weakening of freedom and an erosion of liberty.

In response, we should call on our leaders to return the Census to the noble purpose for which it was intended and not continue using it as the wedge it’s become. While it’s not advisable to ignore the Census, we should think twice about just what information we share with Washington.

Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

Yes, I’m serious – when the form comes I’m only answering Question 1 (and Lord help the person responsible if they send me the American Community Survey.) This cleared LFS back on February 18 and was featured in at least one small paper up in Minnesota.

Those things which divide us

The other day I began a Facebook group based on political belief. This nascent group isn’t large and it may sound controversial, but hear me out before you condemn.

The group is called “Answer just ONE question on the Census.” My contention is that the only question which should be answered on the upcoming Census form is the one where you state how many people live in your dwelling because the only mandated purpose for the census – according to the Constitution at any rate – is to determine numbers for proportional representation to Congress. If America has 300 million people and 435 representatives to Congress, then the only thing truly necessary to know is how much of a multiple of 690,000 or so live in each state so we know the proper number of Congressmen a state should have. For Maryland that will likely remain eight and for Delaware one.

The important question on the standard Census form is Question #1: “How many people were living in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” It’s the population snapshot which determines the count they need.

But Question 2 asks about additional people (related or unrelated) not included so they can “contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.” Since there is no need for additional information, it seems to me this can be used to hound nonresponders. Perhaps this question is innocent enough, but it leads to more divisive questions.

The third question asks about the status of your living arrangements, whether you own or rent. The answers are “used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions.”

This is where the Census starts to creep well beyond its appointed scope. Then Question 4 asks for your phone number “so they can contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.” No, the government does not need my telephone number because who knows where that data may end up. Same with Question 5, which asks for the name of each person living in the home.

Question 6 asks about gender, in part because “many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing, and evaluating their programs.” Now back in 1790 when this was first asked this might have made sense because the voting franchise was unavailable to women, but we took care of that with the Nineteenth Amendment.

The next question (#7) asks for age and date of birth, in part for “forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare services.” It’s a handy way to continue the transfer of wealth of working-age folks to those seniors who rely on entitlements. That gravy train is soon coming to an end because the Ponzi schemes are unsustainable.

But the two truly dividing questions begin with Question 8: “Is Person (x) of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?” As the Census people explain, “state and local governments may use the data to help plan and administer bilingual programs for people of Hispanic origin.” Aren’t we supposed to speak English in America? Similarly, Question 9 asks about race in order to cover any other minorities.

More troubling is the data on Question 9 goes to the purpose Question 1 is supposed to: “State governments use the data to determine congressional, state, and local voting districts.”


Question 10 just asks about whether the people in Question 1 stay somewhere else. Compared to the other ones, it’s fairly innocuous.

The Census is sold as an innocent method to get what a community deserves – radio commercials pit it as a method to assure we have the classrooms we need or the traffic signals a growing area has to have. But there are other ways of getting that information – school systems annually count their enrollment and traffic counts are easy to obtain.

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the Census is that “each question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country.” It’s a signal of just how far the nation has gotten from Constitutional government and become addicted to the spoils of Fedzilla largesse.

But if you answer just one question on the Census, it confounds the process and hopefully sends a message to Washington that we as a nation refuse to be divided. As it is, the system pits black against white, man against woman, poor against wealthy, and old against young in a never-ending battle for taxpayer funding.

I thought the idea was “united we stand”, so why should we assist the overly mammoth federal government in dividing us? Just answer Question 1 and send the form back. Let them call; that’s all the info they’re getting out of me.