Down for the count: Census 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It can be assumed by now that you have received your 2010 census forms. Just over 120 million households should have received the forms in the mail sometime last week.

And by now a substantial portion of American households have already filled out the simple, 10-question survey and returned it in the postage-paid envelope.

That much is good.

This important census helps to determine how $400 billion in federal outlays are allocated and also determines population trends that will affect congressional and state legislative makeup.

By any definition, the census is important.

But here's what burns my pocketbook as well as other parts of my person.

We taxpayers will shell out $1.5 billion to count the "hard-to-reach" population and help ensure a more accurate count.

The truth is, those who fail to respond to the census are not "hard-to-reach." They are often just lazy, irresponsible and fail to do a simple task asked of them. And once again, they are expensive.

I know there are a number of elderly Americans who may be confused by the census and need some help in responding. But that population pales in comparison to the millions and millions of households who choose to ignore this simple request and force the rest of us to pay for their behavior.

We taxpayers save $85 million for every single percentage increase in response to the initial census form.

But since so many households will ignore the forms, we are forced to hire 650,000 temporary workers this summer to go house to house and complete the forms. On average, it will cost taxpayers $57 for every house they must canvass.

Of the 120 million forms mailed, an estimated 48 million will not be returned, despite the 59 languages used and despite the 120 million letters mailed the week before the census and despite the additional time given to some areas.

When the tally is over, we will spend somewhere around $14 billion to complete the census. That's an increase from the $8.2 billion spent just 10 years ago. And it's a huge jump from the $1 billion spent in 1970.

I went door to door for the 1960 census as a project for the Boy Scouts. Needless to say, we weren't paid, and I could argue our count was as accurate as the $14 billion count we're working on right now.

I'm tired of the excuses made by our politicians for the population in this country who fall far short of being responsible. These 48 million households who will fail to respond are by no means "hard-to-reach." In fact, they are fairly easy to reach. They make a conscious choice not to respond.

But rest assured if that mailing included a federal assistance check, a Social Security check, an SSI check, a food-stamp card, a disability check, a utility voucher or something from countless other assistance programs, they would be opened and responded to immediately.

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