There is an urban legend that 1920s Chicago entrepreneur and sometimes philanthropist Mr. Alfonso "Big Al" Capone originally said, "Vote early, vote often." Mr. Capone (sir!) certainly knew what inflating the count could do for a guy when he needed something.
One wonders what Big Al would be able to do with the 2010 Census.
Our every 10th year Census is mandated by the primary law of the land, the Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2. Congress has the power to collect this information "in such manner as they shall by law direct." The original intent seems to be to get a count so each State could get their fair share in the House of Representatives. Since then the courts have consistently upheld the right of Congress to ask just about anything to which the Census Bureau thinks people will confess.
Not sure if it has ever come before the courts, but it does appear that to take the Census Congress has commandeered for itself the right to spend as much money as they can get away with.
The 2010 Census will cost an estimated $14 billion. Seems that's something of a record for a Census, although not nearly a record for stuff on which Congress thinks worth spending tax money. And, no, the appropriations were not "earmarks."
The first cash layout was for numerous TV commercials to let us know it is 2010. Surely these were provided free by the stations as a public service? Why do I doubt that?
Next came a letter sent to, one assumes, every home in America. Printed by the government printers (that's free, right?) and delivered by the government post office (whatever they're calling it now). Can't be adding that much to the cost, right?
According to their letter if I fill out the form my home town might get more money for: "...highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need." Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share." Couldn't we just get the cost of mailing the letter?
Finally, as to most of you by now, arrived the 2010 Census form.
I'm thinking Big Al would see this as an opportunity to stuff the ballot box.
If it means more money for education, why not just add a few kids to my response? Strikes me as a noble gesture, and an easy way to help the three grandkids in Clay County schools.
If I think that, say, the Chamorro people need more representation, why not check that box a couple of times?
They want my phone number -- hopefully the no-call list will block them out. Just in case "big brother" might get his call through, maybe I could find Al's old number.
I'm going to fill the darn thing out, honestly and correctly, and early. It is just too much trouble to lie on an official, constitutionally mandated government form. Lying to the fed's got Big Al 10 years in Alcatraz. They only sent us one, so I can't be counted often, either. Sorry, Big Al, I can't quite meet your standards.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.