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Posts Tagged ‘Unfunded Mandates on Citizens’

So I got a letter from my friends at the Census Bureau.

Frankly, after my last phone conversation with them, I’m shocked.  But after reading the letter, I’m appalled.  The Census Bureau’s dedication to finding more ways for my government to spend other people’s money buying votes is almost…heroic.  But I’m getting very tired of the idea that I should be an unpaid information gatherer who needs to cheerfully and dutifully provide to them information that can be used to aid identity theft AND target us for more government “dedication”, and that their assurances that our information will be kept confidential and not be misused should be trusted.  In the immortal words of Brother Theo, “I can only assume someone has been spray painting “IDIOT” on my forehead again.”

Dear Resident:

Recently, a U.S. Census Bureau telephone interviewer contacted your household on behalf of the American Community Survey (ACS).  The Census Bureau is conducting this survey under the authority of Title 13, Section 141, 193, 221, of the United States Code, and response to this survey is required by law.  I understand that you have some concerns about participating in this survey, but your household’s participation is important to the success of this survey.

The American Community Survey contains questions about your household characteristics including such topics as education, employment, and housing.  The primary goal of this survey is to provide the information each year about the social, economic, and housing characteristics of the United States.  Your participation helps provide the information needed by your community, county, state, and nation to plan and fund programs at all levels.  The ACS will provide detailed information updated every year.  Before the ACS, such information was only available from the census which is done every 10 years.

We want to emphasize that any information that you give to our interviewer will be kept confidential.  By law, the Census Bureau cannot publish or release to anyone any information that would identify you or your household (Title 13, Section 9).  The information you can provide can be used only for statistical purposes.

We hope that you participate in this survey to help us improve the information that you and others provide about your community.  If you have any questions, call us at 1-888-817-2153.  We will be pleased to help you.

Sincerely,

James B. Treat

Chief, American Community Survey Office

Let’s brake it down, shall we?

Dear Resident:

Recently, a U.S. Census Bureau telephone interviewer contacted your household on behalf of the American Community Survey (ACS).

More than one, actually.  I made the mistake of being polite to the first one.  As the second one learned, I am not amused by unwarranted intrusions on my privacy and my time.

The Census Bureau is conducting this survey under the authority of Title 12, Section 141193221, of the United States Code, and response to this survey is required by law.  I understand that you have some concerns about participating in this survey, but your household’s participation is important to the success of this survey.

1.  I’m tired of the passive-aggressive bullshit.  Seriously, you set the wrong tone sending an attorney a fat envelope with the words “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW” on the outside.  And the “Pretty please, participate please?” offered in the same sentence as a reminder that my response is required by law isn’t convincing, it is embarrassing, as I try to keep from laughing out loud at this hamfisted approach.  Knock it off.

2.  I have a law degree.  Continuing to tell me that 13 USC 141, 193, and 221 “gives you the authority” to seize my time, and make me an unpaid gatherer of information that you have no authority to demand of me isn’t very convincing.   You are empowered to ask questions that would tend to aid in the apportionment of Congressional representation.  Nowhere in the three sections you cite are you granted authority to ask me about my education level, my employer, my wages, my commute, my residence and the amenities in it, or the health of the people who live under my roof.  These have as much to do with Congressional apportionment as a goldfish has to do with a delivery truck, and even if the authority to ask such things was clearly spelled out, which it is not, I’m not some vassal or serf to be bullied into coughing up my papers, and letting you know what goes on behind my closed doors simply because Congress wants to know.  Perhaps you have heard of the penumbras and emminations of privacy rights in the Constitution, at least those not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights?  If “privacy” means enough that a woman can hire a doctor to snuff her child in utero, then it certainly would permit me to tell a nosy government that still works for me to go pound sand when it starts asking me to spend significant amounts of my time sharing information with it which is none of its business.

3.  I don’t “have some concerns about participating in this survey” (did you learn condescension on our dime as well?) ; I DON’T TRUST YOU.  I read the pretty pamphlet you included with the survey, which outlined how your employees are prohibited by law from disclosing or misusing my confidential information.  It might have even been reassuring, had I not been paying attention to recent news, but given the fact that the IRS is subject to laws and regulations more specific and strict regarding the treatment of citizens’ personal data, and the late revelations demonstrating that IRS employees weren’t deterred one whit by these laws and regulations, you’ll just have to understand that we both know I’d have to be three days dead to trust your agency with that data.  No thank you.

The American Community Survey contains questions about your household characteristics including such topics as education, employment, and housing.  The primary goal of this survey is to provide the information each year about the social, economic, and housing characteristics of the United States.  Your participation helps provide the information needed by your community, county, state, and nation to plan and fund programs at all levels.  The ACS will provide detailed information updated every year.  Before the ACS, such information was only available from the census which is done every 10 years.

1.  Those household characteristics are as related to the topic of the census as a goldfish is related to a delivery truck.

2.  So, as I correctly discerned from the outset, the purpose of this survey is to get information that will allow our elected officials to go shopping with our money and buy votes.

3.  Every year?  I definitely didn’t see the authority to conduct a survey annually in 13 USC 141.  In fact, it was very specific about surveys in addition to the decennial census, but it did NOT authorize the taking of a survey annually.

We want to emphasize that any information that you give to our interviewer will be kept confidential.  By law, the Census Bureau cannot publish or release to anyone any information that would identify you or your household (Title 13, Section 9).  The information you can provide can be used only for statistical purposes.

I want to emphasize that I don’t trust you, no one with three functioning brain cells has any reason to trust you, and you are asking for information that is none of your business.  If I can’t be forced to quarter troops in my home, then I can’t be compelled to reveal to a Census Bureau employee information about amenities in it, or the people who live in it.  And I do not appreciate the presumption that my free time is yours to hijack for purposes of me reporting on myself and my family so that Congress can go on a vote-buying shopping trip with even more of other people’s money.  I realize that you think that the 40 minutes you estimated would be necessary for me to fill out your survey was an innocuous demand on my time.  But you’re only one of many agencies which think that they are making innocent and de minimus demands on my time.  And it is starting to add up.

The fact is that I am citizen of a nation founded on the unique recognition of the rights of the individual…a concept we felt so strongly about that we drafted a Bill of Rights to ensure that the power of government would be limited and subservient to the individual.  This hasn’t been revoked, nor have these rights been surrendered…a fact that many federal employees and elected officials are on the cusp of being very deliberately and unpleasantly reminded of.

The law you cite doesn’t give you the authority to ask the questions you have asked, and even if it did, it is an unwarranted and intrusive invasion of my privacy.  I answered the only questions that the statute can be reasonably said to allow, and they are the only ones I have any intention of answering.  Your time might be better served harassing someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a citizen and a subject.

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