By Adam Dick
Beware the United States Census Bureau. While it may seem innocuous, this government agency, which asks Americans questions and publishes demographic statistics, can quickly be turned into an instrument for mass rights abuse.
James Bovard warns in his Monday USA Today column that, should the US government pursue a “mass roundup of unpopular minorities,” the Census Bureau will likely “serve up the names and addresses on a silver platter.” After all, that is just what Bovard explains the bureau did in the 1940s to aid the US military in rounding up Japanese Americans for internment camps.
And the information the Census Bureau retains about Americans goes far beyond the number and races of people who live in each home. In addition to the once-each-ten-years regular census survey, Bovard notes that the Census Bureau mails the American Community Survey, a much longer “tsunami of questions,” to more than three million households each year. Don’t answer the questions and you can be fined thousands of dollars.
Read Bovard’s column here.
On July 7, 2004, Ron Paul Institute Chairman and Founder Ron Paul, who was then a member of the US House of Representatives, called the American Community Survey “way too much of Big Brother” in a House floor speech. Paul presented his speech during debate on his amendment that would eliminate funding for the intrusive questionnaire. You may read Paul’s speech, from the Congressional Record, here:
Mr. Chairman, this is an amendment that denies all funding for the American Community Survey. And if anyone has been listening to the debate early on, the Census has come up numerous times already, and much of what I have to propose here has in many ways has been debated. But I do want to bring it up one more time dealing specifically with the American Community Survey.
One of the reasons why it came to my attention is just recently I received this survey in the mail here in my temporary residence in Virginia. It is rather intimidating and it is rather threatening when you receive this in the mail. And I have the envelope here and right up on the front they have warned me. They said “The American Community Survey form enclosed. Your response is required by law.”
This was the second time. Evidently, I missed it the first time, so the second time around I have been threatened by the census police that I better jolly well fill it out or the police will be knocking on the door. And that does happen because I have known other individuals who have not filled out the long form, and they come to the door, the police are there deciding they want this information.
It was stated earlier in the discussion about the census that this was certainly the law of the land. The law of the land is very clear that the Congress gave the authority; the Census Bureau certainly does not do this on its own. We, the Congress, gave it the authority to do this. But it just happens to be an authority that we had no right to give. We have no right to give this authority to meddle into the privacy of American citizens.
Article 1, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates a national census every 10 years. I am in support of that, and I vote for funding for a national census every 10 years for the sole purpose of congressional redistricting. But, boy, this is out of hand now. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars and it is perpetual. The argument earlier was, we have to have to survey continuously because we save money by spending more money. Ask people a lot of questions, personal questions about bathrooms and incomes and who knows what.
This survey I have got here, here is a copy of it. It is called the American Community Survey. And it says the Census Bureau survey collects information about education, employment, income, housing for the purposes of community uses so that they can do community economic planning.
How did we ever get involved in all of this? It is almost sacred now that we fund these programs and they are going to be perpetual, perpetual meddling in the personal lives of all American citizens, 24 pages here.
I got to wondering, I did not fill it out the first one. I got the second one, and they are threatening me. I know I did not vote for it, but you who did means, you are ready to send the census police out to get me.
I am getting worried about this. I mean, what is the penalty? So I looked it up, and it is not insignificant. Do you know what my colleagues have done and threatened me with? A $1,000 penalty for every question I do not answer. Wow, that is scary stuff. I had a friend that he did not answer the long form, after a couple of requests, the census police came and knocked on his door and said you better, you better answer all these questions or you are going to be penalized.
So that is the kind of thing that we do and everybody talks about all these wonderful advantages, but it is stuff we do not need. I mean, if we want this information, if people need this information in the communities, they ought to get it themselves. This whole idea that we have to collect all this information for the benefit of our communities to do all this economic planning, I mean, it is just so much more than we need, and we are not talking about 10 or $15 million. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is not just every 10 years.
It is continuous with this perpetual threat, you tell us what we want to know and we are going to put it into the record, and if not, for every question you do not answer, we can fine you $1,000 if you do not tell us your age and where you work and how far you have to go to work and how long it takes you to go to work.
I mean, this is way too much of Big Brother. Let me tell my colleagues, I think the American people cannot be very happy with all this meddling.
So my proposal is let us at least get rid of the American Community Survey, which is the ongoing nuisance that we put up with, and limit what we do here to what the Constitution has told us we can do and what we should do, and that is, count the people every 10 years for the purpose of redistricting. But big deal, who cares. For all we do around here, how often do we really pay attention to the details of the Constitution?
So I ask my colleagues to support this amendment and cut this funding.
This article was published by RonPaul Institute.