Debra J. Saunders

If you see the federal government as a benign force that seeks only to make your life better, then the questions in the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey may not bother you. But if you have a smidgen of doubt, or if you value your privacy, you probably aren't going to like some of Uncle Sam's invasive queries.

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Like: What is your race? Your personal ancestry or ethnic origin? How many rooms are in your home? Is anyone at home deaf or hard of hearing? Does anyone at home "because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition" have "serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?"

Trouble walking or climbing stairs? Difficulty dressing or bathing? Or, "because of a physical, mental or emotional condition," does anyone at your home have difficulty "doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor's office or shopping?"

All I could think of as I read the questionnaire -- which is sent to some 250,000 addresses each month to keep census data current -- was: Wait until talk radio gets a hold of this baby. These questions punch practically every hot button in the paranoid person's arsenal (although the survey did not ask how often respondents have sex -- which shows the Viagra lobby has its limits).

Listeners unhappy with President Obama's expansion of federal power cannot be expected to savor opening the mail to find a questionnaire peppered with highly personal questions -- and by the way, the U.S. Census Bureau says it is a federal crime not to respond. If you don't answer, Uncle Sam can fine you up to $5,000. It's as if the government is telling you: Trust us with your personal information. Or else.

They even tell you that you can't put slashes, European style, through your 7s. There is some good news. "I'd come visit you in jail," Chapman University law professor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell quipped when I called to ask him about the constitutional issues. "Courageous columnist goes to jail rather than have privacy invaded."

Courageous? Not so fast, professor. As it turns out, this survey is not proof of Obama Overreach. The 2000 census asked essentially the same questions -- on race, ancestry, even the physical, mental or emotional conditions.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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