Stu's 3rd to Last Page: Stu vs Census

By Stu Burguiere

Before I begin, it’s important to note that I am NOT the Census-skeptic on the show. You’ve probably heard me get into arguments with Glenn and Pat about the Census, which invariably end in me being asked why I hate the Constitution so much. While I’m no fan of dealing with the government, the Census, as currently constituted, just doesn’t bother me that much, for a couple of reasons:



1) I already gave the government almost all the information they ask for (and a lot more) on tons of other forms and paperwork.

2) The Census itself is one of the few constitutional things the government does these days.

3) The argument that they can’t ask for anything but the number of people in your house just doesn’t work for me. They’ve been asking the race question since 1790, when a lot of the Founders were still alive, and a guy named George Washington was President. If it was against the vision of the Founders, they probably wouldn’t have been asking it.

But, my willingness to play with the government didn’t end so well.

First, I never received a Census in the mail. Only a letter telling me that I might be fined if I didn’t fill out the form I didn’t receive.

Of course, they’re not really fining a quarter of the population (the 2000 return rate of the Census was only 67%) but I still wanted to cross it off my list so that Census workers wouldn’t be coming to my door every two days.

So, I called and spent 20 minutes (which felt like eternity) talking to a woman who could not understand anything I was saying. I answered all 10 of the Census questions, thanked them and hung up. I felt a swell of pride that

I had done my constitutional duty… or maybe more of a general happiness that I was done dealing with the Census for a decade.

Of course, it can’t be that simple. Shortly after, there was a knock on my door…it was a Census worker. To reiterate, I don’t have any real problem with the Census, or Census workers. But, I was completely annoyed by her telling me that I didn’t fill out the Census, and that I had to fill it out, and that I should do it right now, and that it was my responsibility…etc.

When I told her that I already filled it out over the phone, she said "You can’t fill it out over the phone."

The rest of the conversation went something like this.

Me: "Yes, you can. I did."

Her: "No. I was told that you can’t do it over the phone."

Me: "I got the information from your website."

Her: "Look, it will only take 10 minutes. Can I just come in?"

Me: "No. I’m in the middle of something—which is why I called weeks ago and filled it out over the phone."

Her: "You can’t fill it out over the phone."

Me: "Yes, you can. And, yes, I did."

Her: "Well, fine. I’m just going to keep coming back, so whatever."

I really did start the conversation by being nice, but by the end I was infuriated, especially after I was defending the Census on the air for the past six months. So, I went back to the computer to see if I was crazy…nope. The Census website states:

What if I don’t receive the form?

There are still 2010 Census forms being mailed out, so it is likely that you will receive one in the mail. If you do, please fill it out and mail it back right away. If you want to make sure you are counted, you can pick up a Be Counted form at one of our Questionnaire Assistance Centers. To find the center nearest you, please visit the Take 10 Map. If you have not received a 2010 Census form by April 12, call 1-866-872-6868 and we will either take your information over the phone or send you a form by mail. Rest assured that we are going to make sure you are counted in the 2010 Census. Beginning in May, we will be sending hundreds of thousands of census takers to every neighborhood in the country to count each housing unit that has not returned a census form.

How is it possible that I know more about the Census process than the Census worker? Could I have just filled the form out again? I guess, but then I would have filled it out twice, which might lead to inaccurate results. And what happens if you give the Census false information?

From the Census website:

What if I provide false information?

According to Title 13, Chapter 7, Subtitle 2, anyone who willfully gives an answer that is false could be fined up to $500.

What’s the lesson here?

1) Never defend the government.

2) The fact that something is listed in the Constitution doesn’t mean government can do it competently.

3) Census workers aren’t scared by two killer pugs.

 



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