Sunday, March 28, 2010

Counting on You!

I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that the Census Bureau has designated April 1st – April Fools Day – as Census Day 2010.

Could it be that the joke’s on us?!!!

“No, Ma’am, we’re not going to share your personal information with anyone.”

“No, Sir, the White House will never have access to the data you give to the census-taker.”

“We absolutely guarantee that there is no politics whatsoever involved in the Census Bureau.”


I don’t recall there ever having been as much consternation with the census as there is this year for the 2010 census. (Of, course, I’ve only really been around for a few of them. For all I know, there could have been widespread misgivings when T. Jefferson, that wily son-of-a- gun, set out to conduct that first one in 1790.)

But I do know there seems to be some angst about this one. I figure it’s a combination of things.

Frankly, lots of folks, myself included, took note when one of the first actions of the Obama White House was to grab oversight of the Census Bureau. Call me a cynic, but that smelled a little fishy to me. And, taken along with the FedGov takeover of the banks, the health care system, and a piece of the auto industry, it sends up a red flag. (Of course, that’s probably only because I’m an actual American.)

Politics aside, there’s also a fairly healthy general skepticism anymore about giving out any personal information, period. This whole Internets fad that Al Gore invented has opened up a giant new can of worms regarding identity theft and abuse of personal information.

I’m encouraging folks to be cooperative with the census folks, and provide the answers to the seven basic questions being asked. Here in South Carolina, there’s a lot at stake.

For instance, if our actual population matches up to the population estimates which have been predicted, The Pimento State could gain a whole new congressman… giving us seven instead of six… which, arguably, could be a good thing.

Just think… if we get an extra Congressman, next time Joe Wilson blurts out “You lie”, the new guy could chime in, “And how!”

More importantly, the new South Carolina vote in congress could be the one vote needed to repeal the government-run heath care bill that, unless repealed, probably spells the end of American freedom as we know it.

If you DON’T cooperate, here’s what will happen: Nothing, most likely, to you personally. But the census taker will get the information about you and your household the best way he can, mainly by snooping around to your neighbors, and asking them a bunch of questions about you.

So, skepticism, cynicism, and just plain ornery stubbornness aside, I’d like to offer the following information as a public service. (“As a public service” is unusual territory for me. Normally, I just blather on about whatever nonsense happens to be on my mind. So, “as a public service”, I have turned to the Better Business Bureau, and the actual United States Bureau of the Census, for the following helpful information.)

From the BBB:

During the U.S. Census, households will be contacted by mail, telephone or visited by a U.S. Census worker who will inquire about the number of people living in the house. Unfortunately, people may also be contacted by scammers who are impersonating Census workers in order to gain access to sensitive financial information such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Law enforcement in several states have issued warnings that scammers are already posing as Census Bureau employees and knocking on doors asking for donations and Social Security numbers.

The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

• If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.

• Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

• Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by e-mail, so be on the look out for e-mail scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

From the Census Bureau:

More than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, gender, race, relationship, date of birth, and whether the respondent owns or rents his or her home.

Census information, such as household size, must be accurate as of April 1. Census forms have actually been mailed out to 90% of the homes during March.

By law, the Census Bureau may not release or share information that identifies individual respondents or their household for 72 years. That’s the year 2082.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution requires the decennial headcount we call the census. You could look it up.

The normal census form is six pages long, and requires two pages to be completed and returned. Some homes, however, may have received a longer form: the American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau also collects. It's mailed to 2 million households, and asks dozens of questions about topics such as education, commuting, ancestry, citizenship, disability, military service and housing costs and conditions. None of these topics is included in the 2010 Census form. The Census Bureau asks you to complete and return the 2010 Census form AND the 2010 ACS form if you get both.

The 2010 Census asks just seven questions about each person. The standard form — mailed to 90% of households — comes on a folded sheet of paper equivalent to six standard pages. For households of up to three people, your answers will fit on just two pages.

From Rod-Boy:

In the first census (1790) they counted 3.9 million inhabitants of the nation. The most recent census (2002) recorded a population in excess of 281 million. I’m guessing 308 million this time. (Some of the experts have predicted 310 million… but I’m guessing a couple million illegal immigrants have now headed back home, figuring the economy there has got to be better than it is here.)

Here are some other good numbers for you: There are an estimated 6,810,094,425 people in the world. The universe is believed to be 13.7 billion years old. There are an estimated 200 billion, billion stars in the solar system. There are 41 calories in a medium-sized grapefruit. And there now are 1,217 words in this column – that’s 5,904 letters – which is 417 too many! Time for me to say, “See you next week!”

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