But as government has grown over the course of our nation’s history, both in its size and scope, the Census has morphed into the basis for many other things having to do with government programs and federal dollars. And this is where that mention of “fair share” comes in. There are these days various federal initiatives funding programs in states and communities for education, infrastructure, and even health care. Of course, all the money comes from us in the first place. Around the time our nation was in the middle of its fourth census, Alexis De Tocqueville suggested, “The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.” Indeed.
Beyond this, Census data is used by the government in a variety of ways for “policy purposes”—economic and otherwise. This brings to mind another Census 2010 campaign mantra—in fact, it’s the official slogan this time around: “We can’t move forward until you mail it back?”
Forward to where? Forward to what?
I will fill mine out and send it in. I will answer every question truthfully and I won’t waste my time being clever or creative in my responses. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder what all the fuss is about this year. After all, we get a package from the federal government around the first of January each year reminding us of incoming taxes. I never saw a funny commercial about that, largely because most Americans can figure out that this means we have to send something back or be in trouble.
Why then the song and dance about the Census?
Is it because those in charge these days have cool ideas (cool to them) about what they can make of America with new demographic tea leaves to examine? I don’t think one has to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder. Last year, a few eyebrows were raised when the administration announced that it wanted to, in effect, take the Census away from the to-do-list of the Commerce Department, signaling that they wanted command-central for the big count to be in the West Wing. Then there was the issue with ACORN being contracted to work on the big detail-dig. We all know how good they are with numbers, muscle, and the truth.
Questions were raised last year—reasonable ones, in my opinion—about the fact that nowhere on the Census form does it ask about the citizenship of residents. This suggests the possibility that some areas—with large blocs of non-U.S. citizens (legal or otherwise) would have their population and therefore congressional representation impacted by some who have do not have the full rights of American citizenship.
Personally, I am not concerned about getting my fair share based on the Census this year. I am solely concerned with continuing to have my fair say and that the voices heard in our country are those described by “We the People”—in other words, actual citizens.
Furthermore, I’d just as soon keep more of my fair share in the first place, thank you. And “move forward” by myself.