While the Patriot Act and National Security Agency wiretapping have received enormous attention and criticism from the mainstream media, another federal agency has been quietly gathering far more personal information about U.S. residents than those laws ever can. And this unreported project affects thousands more people.
Our inquisitive federal government has been demanding that selected U.S. residents answer 73 nosy questions. They are threatened with a fine of $5,000 for failure to respond.
When I first heard about this from a reader in Lake Geneva, Wis., I thought it might be a joke or an anomaly. But when another in Ishpeming on Michigan's Upper Peninsula received the same questionnaire, I realized something is going on nationwide.
These nosy questionnaires come under the friendly name "American Community Survey." But this is not a Gallup or a Harris poll; the interrogator is the U.S. government and has the power to compel and computerize your responses.
The U.S. Constitution authorizes the government to take an "enumeration" every 10th year in order to reapportion the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to accord with the "respective numbers" of each state's population. The Constitution thus authorizes a count of people; it doesn't authorize the government to find out with whom you share your bed and board.
Beginning in 1960, the 10-year census-taking significantly changed. The government began sending a long form with many questions to a limited number of people, randomly selected, and a short form with only six questions to all remaining U.S. residents.
The government is jumping the gun on the 2010 census, and without public announcement is already sending out an extremely long form, starting with a few thousand mailings each month to a handful of residents in widely scattered small towns that don't generate national media. Recipients can't find neighbors who received the same mailing, so it's difficult to avoid the impression that the project was planned to avoid publicity and citizen opposition.
The person filling out the new long form is labeled "Person 1." That person is required by law to list the name of every other person in the household, giving his or her birth date, sex, race, marital status and relationship.
Other people can be husband, daughter, grandson, in-law, etc. Others can also be "unmarried partner" (defined as a person "who shares a close personal relationship with Person 1") or "roommate (someone sharing the house/apartment but who is not romantically involved with Person 1").
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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