Leave it to our federal government to take a simple task and complicate it to the point of ridiculous... not to mention outrageously expensive.
There are far too many examples that support that statement, but none as fresh as the upcoming 2010 Census. Before I get started...did you happen to catch the Super Bo...er Big Game...commercial Sunday night in the second half?
That's $2.5 million of our tax dollars spent in 30 seconds... even impressive for today's standard of federal spending. 30 seconds...wow! To beat all, the commercial wasn't even memorable. No explosions, kid-generated humor, body function references, partial nudity or even sexual innuendo. Just blah...$2.5 million.
The Census is directed by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2 and the 14th Amendment as a means to establish and correct representation by state population in the the House of Representatives. By law, the Census Bureau (Department of Commerce) must count everyone and submit state population totals to the U.S. President by December 31, 2010. States within the Union would then receive the results the spring of the following year.
It is further controlled by Title 13 of the U.S. Code. If you're a big data geek like me, be sure to check out the U.S. Census Bureau page for numbers galore. Of course, that's where the outrageousness begins. The Constitution only directs a count be conducted for representation purposes, but our Romanesque-type government found a biblical parallel to collect additional data for 'informational purposes'...render unto Caesar...
By statute, the Bureau of Census is forbidden to share information collected during a Census with any other branch of government to include the CIA, FBI and IRS. Personal information only becomes available after 75 years rendering it practically irrelevant...well...irrelevant to anyone besides my 95 year old grandmother who was a feisty 15 when the soon to be released information from 1930 hits the streets. Hey...15 was the new 30 back then...
Besides the $2.5 million dropped during the Big Game, you'll hear a lot of advertising across all medias concerning the 10-question survey and how important it is to complete so your community can rake in its share of the $400 million in tax money available for improvement projects. Let's see...this should be the first Census to top 300 million people legally in the United States...I've got a proposal. How about just sending each LEGAL person in the country a $1 million, divvy up the other $100 million per community population, and let us decide how best to spend our own funds in our respective communities? The Census Bureau would save millions in advertising (this stuff sells itself!) and have absolutely no problem getting people to complete the survey.
I promise I'll use part of my family's $4 million to put up a new traffic light if my city needs one before 2020...you have my word.