U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Economics and Statistics Administration
U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
1201 East 10th Street
Jeffersonville IN 47132-0001
Re: American Community Survey
I am writing to thank you for your gracious requests that I take part in your American Community Survey…the requests that also prominently contained the admonition that “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” However, despite your shotgun “invitations” to take the survey, I’m afraid I must respectfully decline.
You see, while the Census is mentioned in the Constitution, it exists for the purpose figuring out the population of the country, and where people live, so that Congressional delegation size and apportionment may be determined for the states. As a citizen, I am happy to truthfully and accurately report to you how many people reside in my home. Unfortunately, that is as much of an intrusion into my privacy and my time as I am willing to tolerate from your agency, as I already informed you when I received the “long form” in the last census.
I appreciate your efforts to be as appealing as possible, however, the disclosure that filling out the paper questionnaire, that you sent to me unsolicited, should only take me about 40 minutes really doesn’t move me to comply with your attempts at information gathering. I am a busy attorney and a full-time parent. Spending the better part of an hour revealing not just information you have absolutely no business asking me to give you, but information that is of a sensitive nature, and could be abused to my detriment, and then expecting me to simply do it for free is truly unacceptable. If you were serious, you should be offering to pay me for an hour of my time, which I bill out at $200.00 an hour, by the way. You still wouldn’t be likely to get my cooperation, but at least I wouldn’t get the distinct impression that you all sit around laughing at what rubes the people you send these coercive “requests” to must be.
I’m going to be frank with you. I’m not going to give you the names, ages, birthdate, race, and relationships to each other of everyone who lives under my roof. As I’m sure you are aware, such information would be very useful to identity thieves, and while I might voluntarily share at least some of that information with other entities, such as banks or credit card companies, I would do so with the expectation of an exchange of value.
Likewise, I am not going to tell you what kind of home I reside in, when it was built, and when each of us came to live here. Nor am I interested in telling you the acreage. Much of that information can be gleaned online from county records, and I have no interest in doing that work for you. It is also none of your business whether or not I operate a business out of any part of the property, or how much was earned in the last 12 months from the agricultural sales on the property. You could learn the answer to either of those questions from the IRS, and regardless of unequivocal rules prohibiting them from sharing taxpayer information outside of the agency, recent events have proven them all too willing to do so.
It is none of the federal government’s business if I have hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, a bathtub or a shower, a sink with a faucet, a stove or a range, a refrigerator, or a computer, let alone what kind of computer or the number of computers. You don’t need to know if I have internet access, or what kind of access I have.
I’m not telling you how many automobiles are owned by members of this household, how we heat our home, the amount of our monthly electric bill, our monthly gas bill, our sewer and water bill, or the cost of fuels used in our home.
I’m not going to tell you if we have used SNAP benefits in the last 12 months, if we have a condo fee, or if we rent. I’m not going to tell you what I think my residence is worth, what my annual property taxes cost, or the cost of fire, hazard, and flood insurance for our home. I’m not going to tell you if I have a Deed of Trust on the property, or whether my property taxes, or homeowners insurance are included in my house payment. I’m not going to tell you if I have a second mortgage on the property, or how much I pay altogether for both if I do. All of this information is already known to other governmental entities, and again, I have no interest in becoming an unpaid data collector.
I absolutely will not tell you the education level for every person in my home. It is also none of your business what kind of health insurance we may or may not have. You don’t need to know if any of us has trouble hearing or seeing, if we have trouble remembering or making decisions, if we have trouble walking or climbing the stairs, or difficulty bathing or dressing ourselves. I’m not going to tell you if any of us have trouble with daily errands because of some infirmity.
Our marital status is none of your business. Nor is whether or not any of us has ever been divorced, how many times we’ve been married, or if anyone has given birth in the last 12 months. If any of us was currently in the armed forces, or had previously served, the federal government would already know, as it would also know if anyone here was receiving disability, and for what degree.
You don’t need to know if anyone here worked for pay last week, where we worked, including address, how we got to work, whether or not we shared a ride, how long it took any of us to get to work or to get home. You don’t need to know what kind of work I do, who I work for, the industry I work in, what kind of work I do, or what my duties are. You don’t need to know my income, or the sources of my income.
While I’m sure that knowing all of this information would undoubtedly be useful to Congress in their never-ending shopping trip to buy votes with the public fisc, the fact of the matter is that the federal government continues to expand far outside of the spheres of influence that it was intended to occupy, and as I pointed out, much of this information is known already to state and local authorities, who can at least claim with a shred of honesty and a straight face that they need to know as part of the exercise of their lawful authority. Conversely, the federal government has serious trouble delivering the mail, securing the borders, maintaining the interstate highway system, and running the military, let alone responsibly budgeting the taxpayers’ money…and those are all things that it actually has the lawful authority to do. When you start requesting data that state and local governments need to have, I can only conclude that it is a precursor to yet another usurpation of power or authority that was not specifically delegated to the federal government. While this information is desirable for these purposes, as well as other more innocuous purposes which I’m sure you would be quick to cite if we were discussing this face-to-face, the fact is I can glean the “real” purpose, and I don’t trust you with the information. Yes, I know that you included a nice pamphlet assuring me that all information that I give you won’t be shared, and that it will be kept strictly confidential. Given the recent goings on at the Internal Revenue Service, you really will have to forgive me for not relying on these assurances. And yes, I took note of the stick you made sure I could see you dangling. I understand that 13 U.S.C 193 states that “ the Secretary may make surveys and collect such preliminary and supplementary statistics related to the main topic of the census as are necessary to the initiation, taking, or completion thereof.” However, the information you are attempting to gather is either (a) readily available by other means; (b) information that no other individual or entity would have a right to ask me, and I could sue if they did; and (c) I’m not persuaded that the requested data is preliminary OR supplementary statistics related to the main topic of the census, the purpose of which is clearly delineated in both the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3, and 13 U.S.C. 141. I’ve read 13 U.S.C. 221, by which the federal government means to compel its citizens to participate in this invasion of privacy. The fine is not overly large, and I have no intention of paying such a fine when you are requesting information that is none of your business, and cannot be reasonably said to comport with the parameters which are imposed on the scope of your data collection to begin with.
In closing, I would like to remind you of a salient fact that you, and your sister agencies in the federal government seem to have lost sight of: Americans do not like a bully.
As an attorney, I have become accustomed to the federal government finding new ways to waste time with various forms, demands, and entire redundant bureaucracies which delight in making citizens, the people for which it ostensibly answers to, dance like trained monkeys, and act under the mistaken belief that they have to simply accept this treatment from an entity which is out of control, and increasingly imposing burdens on the productivity and creativity of a nation while this same government insults, undermines, and lavishly lives off of these very same citizens. Because I am used to this, I almost let it slide by me without comment, but the passive-aggressive nature of your correspondence regarding this survey was really just too much, especially in light of recent developments showing that the IRS and the Justice Department are out of control. I hope by publishing this letter, other Americans will also resist your intrusion and presumption, at least that is my hope.
An American Citizen Fed Up With Federal Overreach, Presumption, and Arrogance.