Thursday, May 09, 2013

Federal Snoopervisers on My Doorstep

The U.S. Census Bureau -- in the person of Virginia, a mild-mannered lady with an official government I.D. hanging around her neck -- showed up on my doorstep yesterday. Lucky me: I have been statistically selected to "participate" in an "interview" known as the American Community Survey.

"There is a great need for information about the types of homes in whic
h people live and the characteristics of these homes," says the postcard that Virginia left with me. The interrogation...oops, "survey"...will eat up about 45 minutes of my ever-diminishing time on this planet, and I will be "asked" all sorts of questions about my house, my sources of income, where I shop, what I know, all the sorts of intrusive details that the Founding Fathers surely intended when, in the Constitution, they provided merely for "an enumeration" of the population every ten years.

"Your community is counting on you!" the postcard blares on its front, stamped in big black letters over a photo of the kind of house that Beaver Cleaver lived in during the 1950s. And just in case I disappoint the expectations of My Community, there's a little detail that the postcard doesn't state: I can be fined $5,000 for refusing to spill my guts to Virginia about all the personal aspects of my life and finances.

So, who wants all this info, and for what?

Well, the federales surely do: It provides statistical ammo for those "progressives" always looking for rationalizations to expand governmental programs and spending that are already wildly out of control. "The government makes investments and allocates tax dollars with guidance from a survey that costs $225 million this year, with the resulting shaping choices and projections made by the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Transportation Department among others," reports The Fiscal Times. That's why (according to a publication called Government Executive) "the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress" and "the Census Project, a coalition of 600 associations, think tanks, academics, local officials and civil rights groups" is fighting congressional efforts to restrict the Census to the "enumeration" intended by the Framers.

Also, private businesses mine the Census for free economic and demographic data that they otherwise might have to pay for by conducting surveys of voluntary  participants. That's why such crony-corporatist outfits as "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the Mortgage Bankers Association have previously lobbied to protect the ACS," according to The Fiscal Times, "saying it’s vital for shaping business investment. As an example, the ACS contains 24 questions about housing. This includes the age of your home, its plumbing, its insurance costs, and the type of heating fuel used. For bankers and economists trying to evaluate the state of the real estate sector after the 2008 bust, it’s essential information."

How nice for them to get all that, by ordering me by law to be interrogated for 45 minutes under the threat of a $5,000 fine -- and, I assume, incarceration should I refuse to pay the fine.

Virginia is supposed to call me at 5:30 pm today. I will tell her, politely, to tell her bosses that Mr. Bidinotto refuses to participate other than affirming the number and identity of the people in his home; and that he looks forward to the opportunity to write high-profile articles about all of this, naming names, should the Census Bureau decide to prosecute him for non-compliance.

Oh, and have a nice day.