Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Counting noses

A radio public service ad said (paraphrased): “If we have 100 kids in our school, we need five teachers. If we get 40 more kids, we will need more teachers. But if people don’t fill out the census forms, we won’t know how many students we have and we won’t know to hire more teachers.”

Just right off hand, if the school’s teachers teach that kind of logic, the best thing would be to fire all the teachers and administrators and start over.

Yes, this year is census time. The Constitution calls for a census every 10 years. The purpose of the census is to determine how many representatives each state may elect for the Federal House of Representatives. That’s what the Constitution says.

I have searched far and wide in the Constitution and have yet to find permission for the Federal government’s asking how many bathrooms are in my house, the number of wage earners, nor any of the other questions other than the number of people who live under the same roof at my address.

Other nice things the Census Bureau has done include: spending $133 million on its advertising campaign, including $2.5 million for Super Bowl; spending $88 million more than expected updating lists and maps last fall; paying more than 100,000 employees more than $300 each to attend one-day training sessions, and then the 100,000 quit or were let go before doing a single day’s work; paying another 5,000 employees $1.5 million for working one day ($300 for working one day?).

The last census form I filled out had 95 percent more blank spaces than completed blocks. I got a call from the Census Bureau. The CB person said, “Mr. Merriman, you neglected to complete the form.” I replied that no neglect was involved at all. I reminded (or, more likely, informed) the CB person of the language in the Constitution and then went in to the “The government has no business asking how many bathrooms my house has…” etc. The CB person said (and I am not making this up): “Mr. Merriman, we can find out the information. We can talk to your neighbors.” (Here’s a hint to the government: Don’t ever threaten me.) I said, “Ask, then. Ask all the questions you want.”

When the form arrives this year, I will answer the questions required by the Constitution. Two people live in my house. I will list my name and my wife’s name. After that, nada.

And a month or so later, when the CB person calls or (better yet) rings the door bell, he/she and I will have the same conversation as last time.

Grumpy older men have rights, too.


  1. But what about the water department? They have enough plumbing for you to have one bathroom. If you add another, won't they have to build more plumbing? Oh, wait, there's already a process for that..building permits. It really goes back to one of your previous entries about the passport process. Corporations have incentive to streamline their knowledge of information. It saves them money. Government (apparantly) doesn't have that same drive.

  2. Somebody who thinks? What did your mother and I do wrong?

    Governments survive on duplication ... among other things.