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Bartleby the Scrivener vegan27
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conservatives and the census
A story ran in Friday's Detroit News under the headline "Wary Michigan residents say census treads on privacy". By "wary Michigan residents", of course, they mean, "The same type of Tea Bagging nincompoops who spit on Democratic congressmen and vandalize their offices".

In the story, Howell School Board member Wendy Day said, "Some people I've talked to are shocked by the questions. The Constitution requires only that you put the number of people in the household." Although elected officials who have no idea what is in the U.S. Constitution no longer surprise me, I would like to point out what the document actually says about the census:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. 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. (Article I, Section 2)

The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to decide what questions go into the census. Congress used the power granted to it by the Constitution to delegate administration of the census to the Secretary of Commerce, who
shall prepare questionnaires, and shall determine the inquiries, and the number, form, and subdivisions thereof, for the statistics, surveys, and censuses provided for in this title. (U.S. Code, Title 13, Section 5)

The Census Bureau submitted the exact wording of the questions to Congress in March of 2008, and they declined to amend them.

Some crazed, wild-eyed Tea Bagging bloggers have claimed that Barack Obama has "take[n] over the Census from the secretary of commerce" by appointing Robert Groves as Director of the U. S. Census Bureau in 2009. In reality (back here on the Planet Earth), the Office of the Director of the Census Bureau became permanent in 1902 and is in fact mandated by Congress:
The [Census] Bureau shall be headed by a Director of the Census, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director shall perform such duties as may be imposed upon him by law, regulations, or orders of the Secretary [of Commerce]. (Title 13, Section 21).

The Detroit News article quotes a man from the Oakland County Tea Party, saying, "This census is the most politicized ever in the nation. They have a White House staff person in charge of it. There are political agendas here." That's right--a White House staff person approved by the Senate as required by a law written by Congress whom the Constitution grants with exactly such authority. I want my America back!!

What are the questions that have "shocked" conservatives? Review the questions here and let me know which ones are causing right-wingers to stock up on ammo. I don't know what they found so surprising, since every question on this year's form also appeared in 2000, except for two--whether any additional people not included in the household total stayed in the home on April 1, 2010, and whether any people who were included sometimes stay somewhere else. Were you "shocked" when you read those questions?

I am really disappointed in conservatives. There are two reasons the census asks questions beyond the number of individuals in a household--two qualities conservatives used to demand from government--accuracy and efficiency. In 2000, the Clinton administration tried to include statistical estimations in the census in order to make up for the under-counting that is common in urban and minority districts. Republicans protested, and the Supreme Court ruled that the census must be an actual head-count--and rightly so, in my opinion. Collecting reliable data must always include some kind of proof or backup. That is why names and phone numbers are required. Conservatives are simultaneously demanding an accurate count while openly protesting the simplest possible means of doing so.

The census can be a means of efficiency if we allow valuable demographic data to be collected in a survey that is required every ten years anyway, as opposed to paying a separate agency for a separate survey. The data also help the government allocate resources to where they are needed more efficiently. The Oakland County Tea Party member quoted earlier also stated that he "will not fill out my phone number, they can look that up anyway." Does this man prefer paying government employees to search for phone numbers every time there is a question instead of having the respondents provide them? How is that "conservative"?

I imagine these same people willingly provide the full names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of their children on their income tax forms in order to obtain a maximum refund. Have you ever heard anyone claim that requiring this information is a violation of privacy? Or do they not file income tax forms?

The only other indication in the Detroit News article that hints which questions have people upset is this paragraph:
Some Michigan residents object to personal information being asked, such as whether one owns or rents a home, while others say the government isn't entitled to data such as name and phone numbers. Others said they are offended at the lack of choices given for race/ethnicity and are writing in the word "American."

Even if you set aside the lazy and irresponsible use of weasel words by this journalist, it still doesn't make sense. While it is true that the first six censuses only asked for the full name of the head of each household, every census since 1850 has required the full name of every person living in the United States. And since when are right-wingers "offended" by the government knowing their race?

Oh. I remember now.

These people are lucky they don't live in 1880. In addition to most of the questions on this year's form, it also required U.S. residents to provide their marital status, date of marriage, occupation, number of months unemployed during census year, education information, whether they could read or write, place of birth, place of both parents' births, and whether the person has any any sickness or disability! Can you imagine? A woman who lived in my house during the 1880 Census listed "chronic diarrhea" under "sicknesses". That poor lady... The health section of the 1880 Census asked whether the individual was an idiot or insane. Maybe we should bring those questions back.

To be fair to the right-wingers, they are right to question the secrecy of the census. Although the law states that the information is confidential (Title 13, Sections 9 and 13), congress can always repeal that law. They did exactly that between 1942 and 1947, allowing the U.S. Census Bureau to provide the Secret Service with the names and addresses Japanese-Americans. (The 1940 census asked the place of birth of each individual and their parents.) This information assisted the government in unlawfully interring 110,000 Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

We liberals also have our own embarrassing fringe lunatics. Some Latino leaders are urging illegal immigrants not to participate in the census. (?!) Roy Crisanto, pastor of El Tabernaculo De La Uncion in Charlotte, NC explained, "The government wants to count people, but not give them the benefits that come with being counted." Does this man not drive on roads, send his kids to school, or visit the emergency room? Suppose he doesn't--one STILL doesn't get to enter a foreign nation covertly, provide a false social security number on employment applications, and THEN demand legitimate government services that one feels entitled to. If you want the government to serve you, it first has to know you exist! How does a person ask for transparency and accountability from the very government they're hiding from? You don't get to live outside of the system when it suits you and then act like a participant in society when you want something. You have to pick one. It's called "social contract". It's the basis of civilization!

And that's how you know participation in the census is important--when the least mentally stable of both political extremes agree that it should be boycotted. Hopefully they will somehow cancel each other out.

Hmm. I didn't fill in my phone number, but I didn't know that's what those creeps were saying not to do. I haven't mailed mine in yet, maybe I'll get another form. It just seemed weird to me to include it. I made sure everything was very carefully filled out so that they wouldn't need to call me.

Eh, if you already sealed the envelope, I wouldn't worry about it. I don't think the census worker is going to look at the blank space for the telephone number and think, "Ugh, it look like THIS person listens to Glenn Beck!" It's unlikely they would have to call you anyway.

I didn't leave my phone number because I didn't want them calling me. I gave my name because I have a state issued ID so really why not? I also didn't tell them my sex because I'm not sure why the government wants to know what my genitals and chromosomes look like. Also, there was no choice for intersexed people so fuck em.
I answered everything else.

The government keeps track of gender as a part of monitoring the effectiveness of laws mandating equal employment opportunities for women, and to keep track of how well women are doing economically in general. If the government chose to be gender-blind, we wouldn't know (for example) that women only earn 76.5% of what men do.

Well you said gender, but the census asked for sex. However, your answer still makes sense.