Friday, May 21, 2010

Brought To My Census – Part 2

In the first article on our family’s census experience, I talked about my opposition to any census questions that go beyond my name and the number of people in my family. My resistance to this practice is that the questions are racist – they are certainly not blind to skin color or ethnic heritage. Also, I believe the questions go far beyond the reach of what the Constitution allows in Article 1, Section 2. I’m probably in a very small minority who is offended by the direction of the questions. But I am not going to answer them.

So it is ironic that the government chose my family to receive an additional set of questions to answer this year – the American Community Survey. Every month, on a rotating basis, 250,000 homes are randomly selected to receive the survey. The survey itself is a whopping twenty-eight pages long – and if there are five people in your household, there are potentially 272 questions to answer! Some of the questions include date of birth, race, where you were born, and if you are a citizen of the United States. And then the questions go on to ask (and I’m not making these up):

· What year was your house built?

· How many rooms in your home are bedrooms?

· Does your house have a flush toilet?
(!!!) A stove? A refrigerator?

· How many cars do you own?

· What was your previous month’s electricity bill?

· How much do you think you could sell your house for?

· How much is your home insurance payment? Your monthly mortgage payment?

· What is the highest degree of schooling that you obtained?

· “Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?”

· What is your marital status?

· At what location did you work last week (provide the address)?

And on, and on. The personal nature of many of these questions is alarming. But even with all of this intrusion into my privacy, the real problem for me is this:

The government tells me that I am legally required to answer every one of these questions.

I know this because they have now visited me twice at my house, and called me three times (twice during evening hours) to tell me so. They have been pushing to get these answers from me or my wife, and the last two phone calls have been downright threatening. My name, and the number of people in my household is all that I am giving them. In fact, I didn’t give them my telephone number, but they told me that they worked with the telephone company to match my address and obtain it (I mean, hey, it’s right there in the White Pages, but they went out of their way to tell me that they had “worked with the phone company”).

They proceed to tell me that Title 13 of the United States Code, Sections 141 and 143, gives them the authority to demand my response, and makes it mandatory. I tell them that Title 13 is unconstitutional. They don’t have an answer for that, except to say “Okay”, and put me back on the calling list for next week.

I found the answer to fix this as well. The person calling you will tell you that they cannot take you off the calling list – that you will be put back on the call rotation for an indefinite period until you answer the questions (or they finally give up). The secret? Ask for a supervisor. Unlike the typical census call person, the supervisor can mark you down as a refusal, and take you off the list.

Or at least that is what they told me this week. We’ll see.

1 comment:

Brad Richardson said...

Hey Alan,
Keep up the good fight. I'm just going to live vicariously through you and your battle with the census since my wife blindly sent in our copy. Here's a link you might enjoy that points out some more shenanigans of the census.