• Paper Wait, Part 3

Yet another missive from my friends at the U.S. Census Bureau, a little edgier in tone than the previous letters, but still with a lingering hint of friendliness.

They still would like my cooperation — even if they swear they don’t know who I am since I was “randomly selected” — in completing a lengthy form they call “The American Community Survey.” Oh, and they remind me I still am required to do this bit of homework under penalty of law, thank you very much.

As a freethinking American, I remain curious what will become of the information they are demanding requesting from me, under penalty of law.

And, once again, they are spending my tax dollars to harass encourage me to divulge all sorts of private information about me and my spouse. Although they want to know all about everyone who lives in my house, I think I’ll risk withholding information on The Other Beings who co-habit our space. I don’t want to get their tails and whiskers all a-twitter over the indignity of Big Brother prying inquiring into our lives, under penalty of law.

In this latest communication, I am told that information coerced from elicited from me, under penalty of law, will help my government plan — in addition to the aforementioned “new schools, hospitals, and fire stations” — “programs to reduce traffic congestion, provide job training, and plan for the healthcare needs of the elderly.”

All good things for a government to be doing. And to do so, I suppose I’m being unnecessarily intelligent stubborn in asking what these survey questions have to do with those topics:

• How many times have I been married?
• How many times has my spouse been married?
• How are the two people in the household related to each other?
• What are the household residents’ ethnic origins?
• When did the residents move into the current residence — you know, the one that has been selected “at random” to interrogate quiz, under penalty of law.
• What is my monthly condominium fee, if applicable?
• Has anyone in the household ever served in the miltary?
• What kind of work do the residents of the household do?

I could go on, of course, but at this point I don’t see how the responses to any of these questions can help my government plan for “new schools, hospitals, and fire stations” or create “programs to reduce traffic congestion … and plan for the healthcare needs of the elderly.” Even under penalty of law, nothing occurs to me.

Another troubling item is the declaration in the latest letter that “The Census Bureau is required by U.S. law to keep your answers confidential.” That is about as vague a statement as you can get, unless the Census Bureau has, while I was sleeping, been assigned the task of planning the nation’s highways, running the health care system, handling public safety programs, and building new schools. The information it is demanding requesting, under penalty of law, obviously will be shared with someone outside the Census Bureau. Many someones, no doubt.

I wonder if there will come a day I receive a letter telling me the Census Bureau has cross-tabulated all of my answers having to do with my finances with those I have filed with the Internal Revenue Service and telling me they aren’t precisely the same — even though I wrote the world “estimated” on my “American Community Survey” form. That surely will tell me whether the Census Bureau, under penalty of law, actually kept my information confidential.


About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

2 responses to “• Paper Wait, Part 3”

  1. BourbonGuy says :

    Well, if there were particularly nasty divorces in the family, having those hospitals and fire stations nearby might be handy….

    I wouldn’t mess around with the Census bureau. I knew a guy who did time for failing to fill out the ACS form. Not exactly the kind of thing that rockets you to the top of the pecking order in the stir. They nicknamed him “Stat,” short for “Statistic,” which he initially thought was cool, but which, in the end, was eerily apt.

  2. William Dowd says :

    I’d love to avoid further census Bureau involvement. However, please see “Paper Wait, Part 4” — and counting.

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