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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Census Issue

A census is conducted in the United States every 10 years. The next census is scheduled for 2010. The US Constitution specifies that ( Article 1, section 2) “The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

Democrats have been trying to get the way a census is conducted changed. They want to substitute statistical sampling for an “actual enumeration” (generally interpreted as a head count). They claim that many of their constituents are unwilling or unable to be counted in the actual census, but exist nevertheless. For that reason, they wish to use computer models as a substitute for – or adjunct to - an actual count, claiming that this will provide a more accurate representation than a head count.

This may or may not be true. But substitution of statistical sampling for an actual count opens the door to manipulation based on the assumptions built into the models. Election results are an example of the distrust people have about computer systems that count the vote. Even paper ballots are subject to challenge and manipulation.

Computers can “create” people just as they can “create” virtual reality … or predictions of global catastrophe via man-made global warming.

The global warming debate is an outstanding example of the uses and abuses of statistics and computer models. The introduction of computer modeling into something so basic and politically charged as the census will lead to even greater political polarization and distrust than already exists.

A great deal of political power derives from the census, the most important being the apportionment of representatives to the US Congress. A great deal of Federal government largesse is also based on census figures.

But the effects could be even greater at the State and local level which also apportion representation and aid based on census numbers.

The effect of “statistical sampling” will be to give greater control of government to urban centers and take it away from small towns and rural areas. New York City already has about half of the population of New York State; we can be sure that the rest of the state will become even more of a political backwater after the new census. California will become a subsidiary of Los Angeles, Illinois a wholly owned subsidiary of Chicago. Even smaller states will be affected. By current count roughly 20% of Idaho’s residents live in Boise; with statistical sampling we can be assured that number will skyrocket.

There are, of course, a few who are concerned about this issue, but for most of the chattering classes, who inhabit our population centers, this move will be considered a “good thing.” The rest of the country will be assigned the role of hewers of wood and drawers of water. The enlightened few will hold the levers of power. More bread and circuses anyone?

Juan, should we be making excuses of bad things?

This from Bruce Chapman, Director of the Census from 1981 to '83 in the Reagan Administration
Don't Politicize Next Year's Census Count
Everyone knows that it is possible to organize a Decennial Census in a way that benefits one party or another politically. One way to effectuate this otherwise unpalatable departure from the Census Bureau's two hundred year history of non-partisanship is to put the Bureau administratively under direction of the politicos in the White House. In reality that would be a sure invitation to cook the books on the highly consequential count of Americans.

Advocates argue that putting the 2010 Census under direct White House control somehow assures a higher priority to its mission. This is cynical. It puts a priority on manipulation of carefully derived Census criteria. The only reason the White House would want to be involved is in figuring out how to add more voting power to certain states and groups within states.

Simply put, there is no excuse for this idea. it is not true that the Census Bureau has ever been under the direct management of the White House, and for good reason. Even if angels were in charge of the Executive Mansion, if the nation's premier statistical agency were placed under White House direction the danger to public trust would be enormous. The Decennial count is one of the few federal functions specifically described in the Constitution itself and must be operate above suspicion of politics.

I was Director of the Census from 1981 to '83 in the Reagan Administration. I always was made to feel conscious of the sound public servants who had preceded me and, regardless of who appointed them, defended the decennial count. . I have known directors from the Kennedy era (the estimable Richard Scaammon) to the G. W. Bush Administration (the very professional Louis Kincannon). I don't know anyone who cares for the integrity of the Bureau and its products who would desire to see the Census Bureau report directly to the White House.

Power flows from an accurate Census Count. Everyone involved for years has seen the count therefore a sacred trust. It must not be polluted with even a semblance of Presidential meddling.


Waving invisible banners proclaiming "Census Rights Now," an enormous throng of Imaginary-Americans rallied at the National Mall today to support the Obama Administration's planned takeover of the U.S. Census Bureau.

"I want to thank everyone in the Imaginary community for turning out for this great cause," said President Obama, speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Monument to a reportedly cheering crowd estimated at between 0 and 12 million. "For too long, the Census Bureau has discriminated against people on the basis of their existential status, or perceived lack of appearance. That must stop. I promise you that under my administration, Imaginary-Americans everywhere will enjoy the same rights that they do in my home town of Chicago."

ABC News analyst Jake Tapper said the rally underscored the growing national political clout of Imaginary-Americans.

"It used to be that Non-Existentials were mostly confined to a few wards in Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, but we're seeing them more and more in opinion polls and elections around the country," said Tapper. "With dozens of congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal grants hanging in the balance, the President wants to make sure Imaginary citizens don't get undercounted in the 2010 Census."

"It's just smart politics," added Tapper. "According to the exit polls, President Obama carried the Imaginary vote 346% to √-12%."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re: Juan Williams: What bothers me most about Democrats is that they will excuse anything another Democrat does no matter what; usually by saying that someone else did it too, making it somehow alright. I supported Bush for the most part, but there were things he did that were absolutely wrong. Democrats will never admit that one of theirs ever did anything they can't find an excuse for.