HNtoWYN: The Census

It’s that time again, kiddies! The time when the federal government lines everybody up and counts heads. Gotta make sure the stormtroopers have enough bullets when the revolution comes, you know!

All kidding aside, there’s a lot of weird misinformation and outright kooky paranoia going around right now about the Census. We here at Cat Vacuuming despise ignorance and misinformation! (At least insofar as the elimination of such helps us waste a few hours we would otherwise spend writing…) And, as you all know, we’re here to help! So, to that end, let’s clear a few things up, shall we?

  • Why do we have to have a Census at all?

Well, Pinky, we live in what’s called a representative democracy. That means we elect people to represent us in the government rather than in a direct democracy where EVERYBODY has to vote on EVERYTHING. (We’ll assume you see the problem with the latter approach when governing a nation of around 300 million people spread out over more than 3.5 million square miles. You’re smart cookies.)

At present, the number of seats in the House of Representatives is fixed at 435 and each state’s apportionment of seats is determined by that state’s population (in relation to the population of the other states), as determined by the decennial (that means ‘every ten years’) enumeration of the People – also known as the Census! So the government needs to know how many people live in each State so it can decide how many representatives they’re entitled to, and the more representatives your state has, the more say your state has in the governance of the country!

  • The Constitution doesn’t say anything about a Census. This is an unconstitutional invasion of my privacy!

Well you’re right about one thing: The Constitution doesn’t use the word census. Instead it refers to the ‘Enumeration’. Census is just a word that refers to a count of a state or nation’s population:

Pronunciation: \ˈsen(t)-səs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from censēre
Date: 1634
1 : a count of the population and a property evaluation in early Rome
2 : a usually complete enumeration of a population; specifically : a periodic governmental enumeration of population
So there you go. Pick nits much?
  • Why do you ask all this crap? The Constitution says I only have to tell you that someone lives here.
Actually, the Constitution doesn’t say anything at all about what questions can or should be asked OR what respondents are required to answer. What it says is that Congress shall (in Constitutional-ese that’s the same as must) take a census (nitpickers, see above… again) every ten years and that they are empowered to do so as they see fit. From The U.S. Constitution Online, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3:
(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 previous sentence in parentheses was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2.) 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. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
See there? And it just so happens that Congress decided that this year, respondents will be required to answer the questions that are being asked. The good news is: Your answers are confidential. All of your personal data are kept confidential for 72 years. All Census takers are sworn to keep the information they gather confidential. If they fail to do so they could be imprisoned, fined, or both! The bad news is: You are required by law to answer the questions they ask. What’s the penalty for failing to respond? Hell if I know, but do you really want to find out?
  • You commie bastards are just assembling a hit list so you can track me down and poop on my rights!
Okay, putting aside the whole CONFIDENTIAL thing for a minute, do you really think that if the Federal Government wanted to hunt you down and put the hurt on you they don’t have any better way to do it than to send some poor schmuck in a Tilly hat and cargo shorts to ask you where you live and with whom? Seriously, dude. When they say confidential, they MEAN confidential. Your information cannot be shared with ANY other agency, Federal, state or local. Not with police, or immigration, or IRS, or DNR. Nobody! Get over yourself for a minute, will ya?
  • They’re wasting taxpayers’ time and money sending people out to homes to take the Census!
Actually, the people wasting taxpayers’ time and money are those who DIDN’T FILL OUT THE CENSUS. If you’d completed the form and sent it in like a PATRIOT they wouldn’t HAVE to send an Enumerator out to count you in person. Since you DIDN’T, the best thing you can do to help keep costs down is to be interviewed as quickly as possible, call the guy back if you’re not home when he (or she) stops by. But hey, if you don’t want to get it over with quick and easy, don’t answer. Don’t call back. The longer it takes to get you counted, the longer that guy (or gal) has a job.
  • That Census guy is CUTE! Can he come over and count ME? I could really get into a little In-Depth Enumeration *nudgenudgewinkwink* Know what I mean?

Sorry, Charlie – Cougars aren’t among the list of candidates for enumeration this time around. Call your congressman. (They’re always up for a little funky filibuster…)

And there you have it, kids. Are we all clear now? If you really are concerned about government waste, the right thing to do is to ANSWER YOUR CENSUS. It makes sure your state gets as much of a say in the way the country is governed as possible and keeps the poor shlubs stuck counting the non-responders from racking up weeks and weeks on the taxpayers’ tab.
That’s the news from the trenches. Be good, my pretties! And whatever you do…

4 comments to HNtoWYN: The Census

  • Maria

    dang it! you need a “like” button for us lazy schmucks who don’t know why we have to go beyond our lazy mindless clicking. For god sake man! you;re making me move my fingers and I’m not at work!!

  • BWRS

    Well there’s a SHARE button there… :) And you should try the whole moving fingers thing a little more often. It can be a whole LOTTA fun!

  • Uncle Freaky

    So, are you done with this?

  • BWRS

    On the Census work? Yup. It lasted just three weeks, plus a week for training. Interesting stuff, though. And I heard some pretty irritating things afterward about some of my coworkers. Really heinous breaches of regulations and things.

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