Saturday, May 1, 2010

Doesn't Census 2010 Seem Just a Little Bit... Odd?

Every decade, a census is taken in the United States, so Census 2010 came as no surprise. But doesn't this year's census hoopla seem a bit weird?

The government reminds me of the mother of a spoiled, recalcitrant child, pleading, cajoling and threatening in the hopes the child will do some small thing she wants. The latest constant reminder is that mailing the form only costs the government, and therefore the taxpayer, 42 cents, whereas having someone come to the door costs $57. They tell us this via expensive commercials and numerous mailings - our humble home has received no less than four mailings regarding the well-publicized census. First, we received a letter telling us it was coming. Next, it came! Not long after arrived a letter informing us it had come. What is this, the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes?

Long after we had mailed it back, a duplicate census form, slightly different from the first, arrived, also warning us we must fill it out by law. I know personally of more than one confused citizen who dutifully mailed back both census forms. So of course we all know the next step in that parade. But they are all elderly and live in Florida, so perhaps this is not a country-wide phenomenon.

The 2010 Census is pretty funny. It wasn't at all surprising that Census Day 2010 fell on April 1st, otherwise known as April Fool's Day. As a matter of fact, all the questions, which most of us filled out in March, refer to April, as in "How many people lived in your house on April 1, 2010?" Sort of a census for Trekkies - future tense in the past via wormhole, or something. Without a rip in the time/space continuum, I couldn't say with absolute certainty, so I just guessed. Even though everything was dumbed down, it still managed to be confusing, so guessing was really all that was left to me. For instance, I was asked if anyone who lives here sometimes lives elsewhere, such as prison. Well, no, not on March 25th; but who knows what might happen by April 1st?

The questions are in English and Spanish, and given the April Fool’s Day tie-in, I was tempted to fill out the Spanish side, answering None of the Above to the question inquiring whether  I am Spanish, Latino, or Hispanic. But they don't consider this question related to race. The race section is separate, and very specific until it suddenly reverts to "other." I didn't think it was politically correct to be obsessed with race any more. I don't understand how that knowledge will help them "determine allocation of federal funds, as well as seats in the House of Representatives," which is the stated purpose of the census.

But at least it was short. Just ten questions. Per person. In two languages. In 2000 the census was only seven questions. It was also estimated to take ten minutes. I guess we're getting slow. Of course, in 2000 they also boasted that “some day, there may be no need for paper census questionnaires: Census 2000 will be the first in which many households can respond online." So maybe, since we all got computer savvy in preparation, we have forgotten how to fill out paper forms. Or maybe we're just disappointed. Doing a census with pencil and paper, then mailing it back by snail mail is a bit like pulling out a stylus and clay tablet these days.

That's probably why the statement on the back, from the Paperwork Reduction Project, is my favorite part. Say the form takes you more than the allotted 10 minutes. Perhaps you are trying to think whether any of your household is likely to be visiting the prison on April 1st. The Paperwork Reduction Project gives us all a place where we can officially complain. Any comments regarding this "burden" estimate should be reported to them immediately. No doubt they will send out a letter apologizing. Or maybe two.

Personally, I think the whole problem could have been solved by mailing out ONE census form with a notice prominently displayed, informing each recipient that if they failed to mail the form back by a certain date, they would personally be fined $57.00, collected by the policeman sent to their house to enforce the filling-out process. Of course that might have completely changed the argument over who gets to be Person #1!


Cherie said...

That was well written and hilarious! Somethings are just crazy!
It is amazing to me how many people will not just take the couple minutes to fill the dang thing out and send it back but then again some people don't pay their bills either.
It can't be mandatory, because that would not be American, only Health Care can pull that off (sorry if you are an Obama fan) but it is funny to me.
Regardless of all the stupidity I am still glad to be an American :D

Sassy Granny ... said...

I hadn't really thought about it; but you raise some good points. Our local TV channels ran a variety of spots to cajole people into complying, as if we couldn't figure out for ourselves what to do with a census.

Come to think of it, just about everything coming out of D.C. these days feels contrived.

God's best to you & yours,

nikkipolani said...

I agree about the hoopla. Saw it on billboards, too. Aside from the internet, I have very little exposure to media but I'm sure it was everywhere there, too! I read about people who responded to the race question with "American" or "human." I was sorely tempted...

Merle said...

Hi Tracie ~~ It sounds like a lot of duplication etc. I think we have a census every 4 years snd it is usually tretty straight forward.
Thank you so much for your comments and I am so glad you enjoyed the puppy pics and those court jokes. They were unbelievable. I am going along OK for the time being. Thanks for your good wishes. Take care, my friend. Love, Merle.

jenniferw said...

I did it like I've done everything else since the Obama era began: by gritting my teeth and praying for 2012 to come swiftly. I know the census isn't/wasn't his idea, but I promise he has some nefarious plans for use of the information.

Jewels said...

ROTF. American census's... er.. cesuseses... um censai? Is there even a plural for that word? Anyway, they sound much more interesting than Canadian census*** which have a million questions and are 10 pages long. With such entertaining questions as: How many t.v's do you currently have in your household; and Do you licence your pets?

rhymeswithplague said...

A retired friend of mine has become employed temporarily as a census worker, and it just galls me to no end that when the dadgum gummint reported 240,000 new jobs in April they did not mention that the figure included 66,000 census workers. Oh, well, the unemployed ranks will just rise by that same amount in a few short months.

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