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There are only two reasons given in the US Constitution for what we now call the census: determining the number of representatives needed for a given area, and directing federal taxes. Constitutionally there is but one legitimate question: how many people live in this residence? With the House of Representatives based upon population the first reason is obvious. But the second reason expired when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution introduced the infamous income tax.

Today, three columns of invasive questions across 28 pages are asked in the companion to this year’s census- the American Community Survey. Though the current census has been reduced to ‘just’ 10 questions, the old census ‘long form’ data is now being gathered via the ACS. In their words:

“The ongoing American Community Survey has replaced the decennial census long form in 2010 and thereafter by collecting long form-type information throughout the decade rather than once every 10 years.”

Washington DC’s violations of your privacy will now be continuous, rather than once per decade. [...] With respect to your personal life, the Feds want to know how many times you were married, the date of your last marriage, and if you have serious difficulty concentrating or bathing. At one point they even asked for the number of stillbirths or abortions you have had. Even your nosiest neighbor does not know these things.
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The American Community Survey conducting the census publishes a pamphlet called “50 Ways Census Data Are Used”. Only two of the ways this data is used are constitutional.
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Should one refuse to answer all unconstitutional questions, the punishment is a fine of up to $5,000. Some time ago they even threatened imprisonment.




  1. LDA says:

    #39 Greg Allen

    Sorry, anti – (loving government) – haters. It was a bit messy.

    My point is that I think you can have a reasonable objection on constitutional or privacy grounds without being a ‘nutter’. Dismissing all concerns as paranoid seems a little simplistic to me.

    If the government acts outside of its authority (assuming that this is the case) i think that is an important issue. It is the principal that those imposing laws should act/legislate within the confines of their allotted powers.

  2. Mr. Fusion says:

    #41, LDA,

    you can have a reasonable objection on constitutional or privacy grounds without being a ‘nutter’.

    Very true and few would have an argument against that point.

    Dismissing all concerns as paranoid seems a little simplistic to me.

    No one is dismissing “all concerns”. Yet, there are many that do raise a flag of “look how stupid I am”. When someone starts suggesting Obama is an illegal President, the government is controlling our lives, all politicians are crooks, Income Tax is unconstitutional, …, then yes, there is paranoia.

    If the government acts outside of its authority (assuming that this is the case) i think that is an important issue

    Good point. What too many who disagree with the census don’t understand is that this is a very legal process and it does require participation. The same as registering for Selective Service when you turn 18 or filing an Income Tax form.

    It is the principal (sic) that those imposing laws should act/legislate within the confines of their allotted powers.

    Yet, the paranoid have only been screaming of how illegal/intrusive/unconstitutional/etc this is. No one has provided any evidence of why it is illegal or improper. Damn, fill out a job application and you allow the employer to know more about you that the long form does. And there are no restrictions on what the employer may do with that information.

    Insurance companies routinely share this information to deny medical coverage. Citizens are rightly or wrongly blacklisted from employment. Credit ratings get destroyed. And there is no recourse or appeal. But the paranoid among us will wonder why the census form asks for their race.

  3. Improbus says:

    The government has show, repeatedly, that it has no morals and that it can’t be trusted with ANYTHING without fucking it up. Frankly, if they want the information on the ACS form they should just send the FBI and stop the pretense that Americans have any rights. As Adam Curry would say, “SHUT UP SLAVE!”

  4. Improbus says:

    Oh I forgot, “In the morning!”

  5. LDA says:

    #42 Mr. Fusion

    “No one is dismissing “all concerns”.”

    Greg Allen said “All I’m saying is that these anti-census people are paranoid nut jobs.”

    I took this to include all opponents.

    “… fill out a job application and…no restrictions on what the employer…”

    That is not compulsory (unless you want that job).

    “Insurance companies… deny medical coverage. Citizens… blacklisted from employment. Credit ratings get destroyed… no recourse or appeal… the paranoid among us… asks for their race.”

    I am sure most people that are concerned about the census would also be concerned by these things. If they are not they obviously are being selective.

    I do not know if the census as it now appears is legal, it may be, and I was not arguing one way or the other. I do however understand why people may find elements of it offensive or intrusive. Regardless, it is legal to say no to a robber but that doesn’t stop them shooting you.

    My advice is the same as for all issues pertaining to government, if you do not like it (and you are part of a majority that agrees) change it or object/refuse and face the consequences. Government doesn’t own you, but it can (like the robber) impose itself on you whether legal or not.

    P.S. Yes, ‘principle’ not ‘principal’.

  6. jeanette says:

    We received our several months ago and were shocked at the personally invasive questions (28 pages of them). We have chosen not to answer. And were prepared for what happened: harrassment first by mailings, then dozens of telephone calls, threats of fines… and promise that “someone would be coming to our home.” Bring it on. Research told me that so much of the info goes to data junkie and survey entities (sold or shared). History told me that information of the census bureau has been stolen, lost, or accidentally posted publically. History also tells me that (suprise!) the government is not always trustworthy. The fines possibility did bother me; and so I e-mailed the Rutherford Institute (a legal organization that handles cases where a person’s civil rights, or contitutional freedom is in question). They said to their knowledge no one has been fined yet. However, they are quite anxious to know when that happens, so they can have a test case. They asked to be notified immediately should anyone actually be fined/imprisoned.
    I do not like the fact the information in 1942 which caused many American citizens of Japanese descent to be put into prison camps. The information allowing this to happen came from the information they so willing had given the census. (who at first lied that it wasn’t so).
    I feel that if we aren’t careful, we can gradually lose our freedoms which we have always taken for granted. Why couldn’t they have made this survey voluntary and anonymous?

  7. TJ says:

    I happily filled out the short form when it came a few months ago.

    I also just received the ACS in the mail a few days ago – I had never even heard of it until I got the letter stating I would received it — and there’s just no way in hell I’m filling out this form.

    What time I leave for work? What kind of car I have, what kind of gas I use, what is my mortgage payment? Do I have a 2nd mortgage and if so how much is that payment? How much I spent on electricity, gas, water, What is the address of where I work and what kind of company it is, and how much I make. How many bathrooms I have, who lives with me and what is my relationship to them – are my children biological or adopted! On and on…

    I’m guessing they can find out a lot of that information via public records, then by all means go ahead, but I’m not volunteering the information. Let them do the research if they want all that information about me.

    What I did was call them. I said I had already turned in my short form and that should suffice. I also told them I thought the form was UNCONSTITUTIONAL, had nothing to do with being counted, especially as I had already turned in the short form. I told them that they could go ahead and send me a bill for the fine but I would NOT be participating.

    I’m waiting for the harassing phone calls and home visits to begin. Bring it on!

    As a side note, I believe they are only sending out 250,000 per month because if they did it for everyone at once there would be a HUGE major outcry over this major invasion of privacy.

  8. B says:

    I received the ACS and after reading it. I didn’t want to fill it out. I called the Census Bureau and after explainig to me that this survey was “anonymous” and “very important” I still was’t going to fill it out. She finally told me that I was required to, but if I didn’t want to answer some questions it is better to write “I decline to answer” rather than leave it blank. There you go, straight from the CB it is better to write “I decline to answer” rather than leave it blank.