The actual language in the Constitution of the United States regarding the census is short and sweet. It’s located in Article I Section 2 of that magnificent document – an “actual enumeration shall be made . . . every . . . term of ten years.” Every decade, the federal government is tasked with counting the number of people in the country. Seems pretty simple; and especially considering the number of technological tools and the array of data bases available to government and businesses alike as we prepare for the 2010 “enumeration,” it would seem a fairly easy task to complete.
Not so. The census has become big business. In fact, it’s become a multi-billion dollar circus that gets more complex and expensive every time we undertake the task. Problem is, every interest group out there, and every state, city, county, parish and other unit of government at every level, wants to skew the numbers in its favor in order to justify or qualify for more federal dollars. This is leading to ever and more ludicrous schemes to find and count more and more people.
It’s reached the point at which we really ought to call it what it is – a television reality show in which contestants compete to “find” the largest number of “people” to fit into whatever category best suits their needs. ACORN, of course, has mastered the drill; but they’re not the only ones by a long shot. As reported in this Blog in September, the government has enlisted the PTA and school children to help in its efforts.
The National Association of Latino Elected Officials, for example, is exploiting religion in an attempt to collect its “fair share” of people and dollars. This particular group is distributing posters encouraging Latinos to register for the census, just as Joseph and Mary did as recounted in the Gospel. Despite the controversy stirred up by invoking religion to promote a government-mandated census, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights reportedly is translating the “Mary and Joseph” posters into other languages, including Korean and Vietnamese.
Next year’s census is expected to cost us taxpayers upwards of $15 billion, apart from the money non-government organizations will spend to encourage people to be counted. However, for many organizations and government units, spending money now to reap a larger share of the hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars that will be distributed over the following decade in federal programs and benefits, makes a lot of sense.
With so much federal largess at stake, we can only anticipate that the games people play in order to inflate the census count will grow ever more imaginative and costly. Spin the wheel! Pick a door! Make a deal! It’s Census Time!