Census: A Little Too Personal

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Last week Congress
voted to encourage participation in the 2010 census. I voted “No”
on this resolution for the simple, obvious reason that the census —
like so many government programs — has grown far beyond what the
framers of our Constitution intended. The invasive nature of the
current census raises serious questions about how and why government
will use the collected information. It also demonstrates how the
federal bureaucracy consistently encourages citizens to think of
themselves in terms of groups, rather than as individual Americans.
The not so subtle implication is that each group, whether ethnic,
religious, social, or geographic, should speak up and demand its
“fair share” of federal largesse.

Article I,
section 2 of the Constitution calls for an enumeration of citizens
every ten years, for the purpose of apportioning congressional seats
among the various states. In other words, the census should be nothing
more than a headcount. It was never intended to serve as a vehicle
for gathering personal information on citizens.

But our voracious
federal government thrives on collecting information. In fact, to
prepare for the 2010 census state employees recorded GPS coordinates
for every front door in the United States so they could locate individuals
with greater accuracy! Once duly located, individuals are asked
detailed questions concerning their name, address, race, home ownership,
and whether they periodically spend time in prison or a nursing
home — just to name a few examples.

From a constitutional
perspective, of course, the answer to each of these questions is:
“None of your business.” But the bigger question is —
why government is so intent on compiling this information in the
first place?

The Census
Bureau claims that collected information is not shared with any
federal agency; but rather is kept under lock and key for 72 years.
It also claims that no information provided to census takers can
be used against you by the government.

However, these
promises can and have been abused in the past. Census data has been
used to locate men who had not registered for the draft. Census
data also was used to find Japanese-Americans for internment camps
during World War II. Furthermore, the IRS has applied census information
to detect alleged tax evaders. Some local governments even have
used census data to check for compliance with zoning regulations.

It is not hard
to imagine that information compiled by the census could be used
against people in the future, despite claims to the contrary and
the best intentions of those currently in charge of the Census Bureau.
The government can and does change its mind about these things,
and people have a right to be skeptical about government promises.

Yet there are
consequences for not submitting to the census and its intrusive
questions. If the form is not mailed back in time, households will
experience the “pleasure” of a visit by a government worker
asking the questions in person. If the government still does not
get the information it wants, it can issue a fine of up to $5000.

If the federal
government really wants to increase compliance with the census,
it should abide by the Constitution and limit its inquiry to one
simple question: How many people live here?

See
the Ron Paul File

March
9, 2010

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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